Quantum Computing Leaps Forward: Researchers Achieve Breakthroughs in Harnessing Quantum Power
Quantum computing is a technology that promises to revolutionize many fields, such as drug discovery, cryptography, finance, and artificial intelligence. It works by exploiting quantum mechanical phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement, to perform complex computations in a fraction of the time that classical computers require.
However, quantum computing is still in its infancy, and many challenges remain to be overcome. One of the main challenges is to increase the number of quantum bits, or qubits, that can be controlled and manipulated on a quantum processor. Qubits are the basic units of quantum information, and they can exist in a state of superposition, meaning that they can be both 0 and 1 at the same time. This gives quantum computers an exponential advantage over classical computers, which operate on binary bits that can only be 0 or 1.
Another challenge is to maintain the coherence of qubits, which means preserving their quantum state from being disturbed by noise and errors. Qubits are very sensitive to their environment, and any interaction with it can cause them to lose their superposition and entanglement. This reduces the quality and accuracy of quantum computations. Therefore, researchers aim to increase the coherence time of qubits, which is the duration that they can remain in a coherent state.
In this article, we will review some of the recent breakthroughs that researchers have achieved in quantum computing, demonstrating remarkable progress in increasing the scale, quality, and speed of quantum processors.
Breakthrough #1: Quantum supremacy
The goal of quantum supremacy is to demonstrate that a quantum computer can solve a problem that no classical computer can solve in any reasonable amount of time, regardless of the usefulness of the problem. Achieving this goal shows the potential of quantum computers to outperform classical computers in complex problem-solving.
In October 2019, Google claimed that it had achieved quantum supremacy using its fully programmable 54-qubit processor called Sycamore. They solved a sampling problem in 200 seconds which would take a supercomputer nearly 10,000 years to solve. This marked a significant achievement in the development of quantum computing.
Breakthrough #2: Quantum volume
Quantum volume is a metric that measures the overall performance of a quantum processor, taking into account both the number of qubits and their quality. It reflects how well a quantum processor can run real-world applications that require both large and accurate quantum circuits.
In February 2020, IBM announced that it had achieved a record-high quantum volume of 64 using its 27-qubit Falcon processor. This was double the previous best result of 32 achieved by IBM and Google in 2019. IBM also unveiled its roadmap for scaling up its quantum hardware to reach higher quantum volumes and enable more complex and useful quantum applications.
Breakthrough #3: Quantum error correction
Quantum error correction is a technique that aims to protect qubits from noise and errors by encoding them into logical qubits using multiple physical qubits. Logical qubits are more robust and reliable than physical qubits, and they can be used to perform fault-tolerant quantum computations.
In August 2020, Google reported that it had achieved a milestone in quantum error correction using its Sycamore processor. They demonstrated that they could encode one logical qubit into nine physical qubits and correct errors using feedback mechanisms. They also showed that they could preserve the coherence of the logical qubit for longer than any of the physical qubits.
Breakthrough #4: Quantum processor scaling
Quantum processor scaling is the process of increasing the number of qubits on a quantum processor while maintaining their connectivity and functionality. Scaling up quantum processors is essential for running larger and more powerful quantum algorithms.
In November 2021, IBM unveiled its new 127-qubit Eagle processor at the IBM Quantum Summit 2021. This was the first time that IBM had deployed a quantum processor with more than 100 operational and connected qubits. To achieve this breakthrough, IBM researchers used innovative techniques to place control wiring on multiple physical levels within the processor while keeping the qubits on a single layer.
Breakthrough #5: Quantum coherence extension
Quantum coherence extension is the process of increasing the coherence time of qubits by reducing noise and interference from their environment. Extending coherence time is crucial for improving the quality and accuracy of quantum computations.
In October 2023, a team led by Argonne National Laboratory announced that it had achieved a major milestone in quantum coherence extension using a novel type of qubit based on superconducting resonators. They extended the coherence time for their qubit to an impressive 0.1 milliseconds, nearly a thousand times better than the previous record.
Quantum computing is a rapidly evolving field that has witnessed remarkable breakthroughs in recent years. Researchers have made significant progress in increasing the scale, quality, and speed of quantum processors, demonstrating the power and potential of quantum computing. These breakthroughs pave the way for future quantum applications that can solve challenging problems that classical computers cannot.