Research group at MIT claims that they developed a scalable quantum computer that can find prime factors in real time. The prototype is based on only five atoms in an ion trap.

Public key cryptography protects today most of the world's digital data. According to Albany Daily Star, this encryption method relies on a code based partly in factoring large numbers. Calculations based on factoring are made by traditional computers in order to keep data transferred in this way re secure.

When done manually, factoring large numbers is an extremely tedious operation. The latest technology in quantum computing can lead to a significant boost in the field of encryption schemes.

When it comes to factoring, quantum computers have an advantage over traditional computers. While a traditional computer uses bits of information, a quantum computer uses qubits that exist in a delicate quantum state called superposition and can be a mix of both 1 and 0 simultaneously.

Calculations are carried out according to an algorithm's "instructions" and numbers are represented in classical computing by either 0s or 1s. In order to transform an input to an output, the instructions manipulate these 0s and 1s. Quantum computing relies in contrast on "qubits" that are atomic-scale units. Qubits have the particularity that they can be simultaneously 0 and 1. This state of atomic-scale units is known as a superposition. A single qubit in this state can carry out in parallel two separate streams of calculations. This allows far more efficient computations than a classical computer.

According to MIT News, computer scientists at MIT and the University of Innsbruck were able to assemble the first five quantum bits (qubits) of a quantum computer. This nano scale device could someday factor any number. This would make it a powerful application for cracking the security of traditional encryption schemes.

Professor Isaac Chuang from MIT explained that their quantum computer takes 12 qubits to factor the number 15. The system was successfully kept stable by placing atoms inside an ion trap. In order to charge the atoms, the MIT research team only needed to displace an electron from an atom. Atoms were stimulated in the channel according to the team's requirement.