The primary resource for quantum computation is the Hilbert-space dimension. Whereas Hilbert space itself is an abstract construction, the number of dimensions available to a system is a physical quantity that requires physical resources. Avoiding a demand for an exponential amount of these resources places a fundamental constraint on the systems that are suitable for scalable quantum computation. To be scalable, the number of degrees of freedom in the computer must grow nearly linearly with the number of qubits in an equivalent qubit-based quantum computer. These considerations rule out quantum computers based on a single particle, a single atom, or a single molecule consisting of a fixed number of atoms or on classical waves manipulated using the transformations of linear optics.
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