For people in the field, it's an exciting time. "We're gradually removing the stumbling blocks," said Bill Munro, a research scientist at Japanese phone giant NTT, who has done extensive research into quantum computing. "We've shown with the initial experiments that (quantum computing) can work."
Some of the most recent work published in this area has come from scientists at Aalto University in Finland, who have found a way to store quantum particles, see them and change them.
Like conventional computers, quantum computers work by manipulating bits of information. In current computers and laptops, the bits are comprised of electrons, the magnetic fields of metal particles on a disk or the open and closed circuits on a microchip. They're stored as "0s" or "1s" and long strings make the binary code that's the essence of every program.
In quantum computers, the bits are actually not physical particles, but units of information called qubits that describe the state of particles, including atoms and subatomic particles, such as ions, electrons and photons. For example, a qubit might be represented by the direction in which an electron spins or the polarization of a photon of light – that is, how it's oriented.