The blue area represents a qubit test chip on a Microsoft qubit computer. (Image Credit: Microsoft)
According to IBM researchers and their new benchmark experiment, Quantum supercomputers could outperform traditional computers by running calculations more quickly within two years. This has the potential to pave the way for varying applications. It also means that quantum supremacy could arrive much sooner than we originally thought. This led to Microsoft's announcement of plans to develop a quantum supercomputer.
While quantum computers could become more powerful than modern supercomputers, they still can't keep up with practical tasks. "These machines are coming," said Sabrina Maniscalco, CEO of Algorithmiq.
The IBM scientists used the 127-qubit Eagle quantum computer to simulate a material's magnetic properties quicker than a traditional computer. It relied on a unique error-mitigating process to perform that task, offsetting noise that affects quantum computers.
Instead of relying on standard bits (1s and 0s) that transfer and store data, quantum computers use qubits. These can stay in different states simultaneously via the superposition phenomenon. However, the qubits' quantum states are quite fragile, which means that external environmental disturbances could permanently affect their states and stored information. This is what makes quantum computers noisy or error-prone,
IBM's 127-qubit Eagle supercomputer, which has qubits atop superconducting circuits, calculated a 2D solid's magnetic state. The team then measured the noise the qubits generated, discovering that supercomputing material defects accurately predicted each of the qubit's noise. Afterward, they created a model based on those predictions to determine what the results would look like if it didn't have that noise.
Microsoft made a breakthrough with its new qubit type that offers high stability, allowing it to work in a quantum computer. The tech giant also unveiled its first quantum computer roadmap after undergoing research for several years and pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into this technology. It says that development is expected to be complete within the upcoming decade.
"Microsoft has achieved the first milestone towards creating a reliable and practical quantum supercomputer," the company wrote. "Today marks an important moment on our path to engineering a quantum supercomputer and ultimately empowering scientists to solve many of the hardest problems facing our planet." According to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, the company wants "to compress the next 250 years of chemistry and materials science into the next 25."
Others have claimed to pull off quantum supremacy in recent years. In 2019, Google researchers said its Sycamore quantum computer solved a problem in 200 seconds that would've taken a traditional computer 10,000 years to solve. Chinese researchers also said its quantum computer performed nearly 100 trillion times faster than the most powerful supercomputer. However, these two didn't have any practical use.
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