China delivers its first practical quantum computing system

China delivers its first practical quantum computing system

China delivers its first practical quantum computing system

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China’s science ministry said Monday that the country’s first practical quantum computer was delivered to a user, whom the agency did not identify, a year ago.


The 24-qubit Wuyan system based on superconducting technology was built by Origin Quantum Computing Technology, a company founded in 2017 by two of the country’s leading quantum physicists, Guo Guoping and Guo Guangcan. A qubit in the quantum world performs functions similar to bits in the digital world.

With the on-site installation of the Wuyan system, China has become the third country, after Canada and the United States, to deliver a complete quantum computing system to a customer.

Some skeptics questioned the timing of the announcement.

“Quantum technology has a high priority for national security in China. If it was something very important, I doubt it would be disclosed transparently by the Chinese authorities,” explained Weifeng Zhong, principal investigator at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

“The fact that it’s been delayed for a year suggests that they now realize it’s not important for national security, so they’re trying to use it to build China’s image as a leader. technology at a time when they are trying to open up their economy to the rest of the world,” Zhong told TechNewsWorld.


However, Hodan Omaar, senior AI policy analyst at the Center for Data Innovation, a think tank studying the intersection of data, technology and public policy, in Washington, DC, argued that the announcement shows that China has reached an important milestone in its quantum development.

“Overcoming technical challenges on the way to large-scale quantum computers will depend on the ability to scale the number of qubits in quantum systems, just as modern classical computers have depended on growing the number of transistors in superconducting chips” , Omaar said. TechNewsWorld.

“Investing in near-term quantum computing applications helps strengthen the development of longer-term use cases for the technology, helping to improve competitiveness,” she added.

Skip Sanzeri, co-founder and COO of QuSecure, a maker of quantum security solutions in San Mateo, California, called the announcement “great” as China says it has a fully functional quantum computer, although the number of qubits is low.

“Nevertheless, error correction and noise reduction are two important factors in ensuring that a quantum computer can process data and deliver applications that we can rely on,” Sanzeri told TechNewsWorld. “By announcing that they have been able to reach this level, it shows that China is moving towards larger quantum computers.”

Against a trend

The Wuyan system appears to be on par with other systems in the market, noted Heather West, senior research analyst at IDC’, an international market research firm.

“The fact that they sold a 24-qubit system to someone is not that different from what we see anywhere else in the world,” West told TechNewsWorld.

The delivery of a stand-alone system like Wuyan goes against the current market trend.

“Most of the quantum computers that people access today are accessed through the cloud,” explained Doug Finke, analyst at Global Quantum Intelligence, an international market intelligence firm.

“This Wuyan computer is delivered to a customer in an on-premises situation,” Finke told TechNewsWorld. “On-premise has many drawbacks. You have to worry about maintenance. You have to worry about spare parts. You have to worry about calibration.

“Plus,” he continued, “quantum computing innovation is so rapid that it becomes obsolete in about two years. So few people want an on-premises quantum computer. comfortable with the cloud.

Superconducting challenges

The Wuyan system is built using superconducting chip technology, one of the first technologies for quantum computers. Since its introduction, other technologies have been explored. They include photonics, trapped ions and neutral atoms.

“At the moment, no one knows which technology will be the winner or if there will be a combination of technologies that will combine for efficient quantum applications,” Sanzeri said.

“Superconductivity is very difficult,” he explained. “It requires near-zero Kelvin refrigeration.”

“The electrons used in superconducting quantum computers are very difficult to manage due to very short coherence times,” he continued. “That’s why they need to be cooled to such a low temperature.”

Other methods manage longer coherence times and a faster path to the desired goal of 1,000 error-corrected qubits, he added.

“The million dollar question is which technology will win the race for the fault-tolerant quantum computer,” West said. “There may not be a single winner. There may not be a single system that wins. Some types of systems may be better than others at solving certain types of problems.

Long-term vision

Omaar countered that superconducting chips have a number of advantages over competing technologies.

“First, superconducting qubits are solid-state electrical circuits that are easier to control because they are manipulated using microwaves,” she said. “Scientists can therefore use readily available commercial microwave devices and equipment in superconducting quantum computing applications.”

“Second,” she continued, “because the preparation of superconducting circuits is based on the existing method of manufacturing semiconductor chips, the development of high-quality devices can take advantage of advanced chip manufacturing technologies. , which is good for manufacturing and scalability”.

Despite developments like China’s Wuyan system, the arrival of a quantum computer capable of solving problems beyond the capability of silicon computers appears to be years away.

“What quantum computers will be the best at solving complex, intractable problems beyond the reach of classical computing technology,” West said. “These problems are years away from solving a quantum computer.”

“To achieve this, we need at least a million qubits,” she continued. “It’s going to take a lot of work to scale and stabilize the qubits. Qubits are very sensitive to outside noise, so error rates are high in the technology we have.”

Despite the exuberance shown by many, we are still in the early days of quantum computing, added Richard Stiennon, founder and chief research analyst at IT-Harvest, a cybersecurity industry analyst firm at Birmingham, Michigan.

“There are many physical constraints on quantum computing that require precision in path length – we’re talking microns – and resistance to forces – footsteps can interfere with that. Supercooled chips only add to the complexity,” Stiennon told TechNewsWorld.

“I put it in the same area as the development of nuclear fusion that can be used as an energy source,” he said. “Hundreds of billions of dollars and decades to show a glimmer of progress.”


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