China’s science ministry announced Monday that the country’s first practical quantum computer had been delivered to a user the agency did not identify a year ago.
The 24-qubit Wuyan system, based on superconducting technology, was built by Origin Quantum Computing Technology, founded in 2017 by two of the country’s leading quantum physicists, Guo Guoping and Guo Guangcan. A qubit in the quantum world performs the same functions as bits in the digital world.
With the on-premises installation of the Wuyan system, China became the third country, after Canada and the United States, to deliver a complete quantum computer system to a customer.
Some skeptics questioned the timing of the announcement.
“Quantum technology is a high priority for national security in China. If it was something very important, I doubt it would be disclosed by the Chinese authorities in a transparent manner,” said a professor at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center in Fairfax, Va. explained senior research fellow Weifeng Zhong.
“The fact that it has been delayed by a year suggests that they have now realized that it is not important for national security, so they are using it to build China’s image as a technology leader. When they are trying to open up. their economy to the rest of the world,” Zhong told TechNewsWorld.
However, Hodan Omar, a senior AI policy analyst at the Center for Data Innovation, a think tank that studies the intersection of data, technology and public policy in Washington, D.C., maintained that the announcement was an important step taken by China. . Quantum Evolution.
“Overcoming the technical challenges that stand in the way of large-scale quantum computers will depend on the ability to scale up the number of qubits in a quantum system, just as modern classical computers rely on increasing the number of transistors in superconducting chips,” Omar said. ” Technewsworld.
“Investing in near-term quantum computing applications helps develop long-term use cases for the technology, thereby helping to improve competitiveness,” he added.
Skip Sanzeri, co-founder and COO of QuSecure, a maker of quantum-secure security solutions in San Mateo, California, called the announcement “formidable,” because China is saying they have a fully functional quantum computer, although the qubit count is low.
“Nevertheless, error correction and noise reduction are two important factors to ensure that a quantum computer can process data and provide applications we can rely on,” Sanzeri told TechNewsWorld. . “By announcing that they have been able to reach this level, it shows that China is making progress towards large quantum computers.”
bucking a trend
The Wuyan system appears to be on par with other systems in the market, said Heather West, a senior research analyst at IDC, an international market research company.
“The fact that they sold a 24 qubit system to anyone is no different than what we’re seeing elsewhere around the world,” West told TechNewsWorld.
Offering a standalone system like WuYan is really bucking the current trend in the market.
“Most quantum computers that people are accessing today are accessed through the cloud,” explained Doug Finke, an analyst at Global Quantum Intelligence, an international market intelligence firm.
“This WuYan computer is being delivered to a customer in an on-premises condition,” Finke told TechNewsWorld. “On-premises has a lot of disadvantages. 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 fast that they become obsolete in about two years. Very few people want on-premises quantum computers. They are more comfortable with the cloud.”
The Wuyan system is built using superconducting chip technology, one of the earliest technologies for quantum computers. Since its introduction, other techniques have been explored. These 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 impressive quantum applications,” Sanzeri said.
“Superconducting is very difficult,” he explained. “It requires near-zero Kelvin refrigeration.”
“The electrons used in superconducting quantum computers are very difficult to manage because of their very short coherence times,” he continued. “That’s why they must be cooled to such low temperatures.”
Other methods are managing longer coherence times and a faster path to the desired goal of 1,000 error-corrected qubits, he said.
“The million-dollar question is which technology will win the race for fault-tolerant quantum computers,” West said. “There may not be one winner. There may not be one system that comes out on top. It may be that some types of systems are better than others at solving certain types of problems.”
Omar countered that superconducting chips have several advantages over competing technologies.
“First, superconducting qubits are solid-state electrical circuits that are easy to control because they are manipulated using microwaves,” she said. “So scientists can use readily accessible commercial microwave devices and equipment in superconducting quantum computing applications.”
“Second,” he continued, “because fabricating superconducting circuits is based on existing methods of making semiconductor chips, the development of high-quality devices can take advantage of advanced chip-making techniques, which is good for manufacturability and scalability.” “
Despite developments such as China’s Wuyuan system, the advent of quantum computers that can tackle problems beyond the capability of silicon computers appears to be years away.
“Quantum computers are going to be the best for solving complex, intractable problems beyond the scope of classical computer technology,” West said. “Those problems are years away from being solved by quantum computers.”
“To reach that, we need at least a million qubits,” he continued. “It is going to take a lot of work scaling up and stabilizing the qubits. Qubits are very sensitive to external noise. As a result, the technology we have has a high error rate.
Despite the enthusiasm displayed by many, we are still in the early days of quantum computing, said Richard Steinon, founder and chief research analyst at IT-Harvest, a cybersecurity industry analyst firm in Birmingham, Michigan.
“There are many physical constraints on quantum computing that require precision in path length – we are talking microns – and resistance to forces – steps can interfere with that. Supercooled chips just add to the complexity,” Steinen said. told TechNewsWorld.
“I put it in the same area as developing nuclear fusion as an energy source that is usable,” he said. “Hundreds of billions of dollars and decades of progress to be glimpsed.”