Computing Beyond the Speed of Light
In the first quarter of the 20th century, Albert Einstein revolutionized physics with the theory of quantum mechanics. At the beginning of the 21st century, Gilles Brassard is applying quantum mechanics to computers. And the results could be just as revolutionary.
What's the whole idea? Brassard says Quantum information-processing concepts have the potential to create a revolution in computer science. A revolution that could be as spectacular and far-reaching as that created decades ago by the invention of the transistor.
Brassard is considered by many to be the father of quantum computing. In the late 1970s, he was one of the first researchers to apply the theoretical physics of quantum mechanics to the burgeoning field of computer science-at a time when the notion was thought of more as science fiction than science.
Now, as a holder of a Canada Research Chair, Brassard will continue his groundbreaking work to apply the "spooky action" of quantum mechanics to information processing. Quantum mechanics explains the behaviour of the building blocks of all matter and energy, such as photons, electrons, and atoms. His research will further explore the potential to create quantum computers-capable of performing some calculations faster than a classical computer the size of the universe, at least in theory. This could have profound consequences for the security of transactions on the Internet, as needed for secure Electronic Commerce.
Another area of enormous potential is quantum cryptography, a field in which Brassard has been a pioneer since 1979. Along with his extensive group of international graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, Brassard will seek to determine the conditions under which this quantum-based information privacy system could be practically used, yet unconditionally secure.
In addition to this research, Brassard will continue his research into the fascinating world of quantum teleportation. This makes use of the most fascinating aspects of quantum mechanics to allow for the transmission of quantum information through a classical channel. "Beam me up Scotty?" Not quite yet!