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Quantum chip accomplishes task in microseconds that would take a supercomputer 9,000 years, Chip maker claims quantum advantage


Canadian company Xanadu Quantum Technologies recently announced a “major” breakthrough with a new device capable of outperforming any supercomputer in the world for a particular task. Xanadu has announced that it has designed a quantum chip called Borealis that has achieved a “quantum advantage”, providing a rapid result that goes beyond the current capability of traditional computing systems. Borealis would have completed in just 36 millionths of a second a task that would take an average supercomputer 9,000 years.

Breakthroughs in quantum computing seem to come and go, but the technology is struggling to find its audience. Xanadu’s feat is the latest to demonstrate the power of quantum computing over conventional computers, a seemingly simple idea known as quantum supremacy. In theory, this concept makes sense. Unlike conventional computers, which calculate in sequence using binary bits – 0 or 1 -, quantum devices exploit the complexity of the quantum world, where 0 and 1 can exist at the same time with different probabilities.

The data is processed in qubits, a unit that performs multiple calculations simultaneously thanks to their unique physics. Basically, a quantum computer is like “a very efficient multitasking computer”, whereas classical computers are much more linear. When given the same task, a quantum computer should be able to outperform any supercomputer, no matter the problem, in speed and efficiency. Quantum supremacy has been the driving force behind the promotion of a new generation of computers totally alien to anything that has come before.

Called “Borealis”, Xanadu’s QPU (“quantum processing units” or “quantum chip”) would have accomplished the computational task revolving around the sampling of the Gaussian boson (GBS – “gaussian boson sampling”) in just 36 microseconds. According to an article published in the scientific journal Nature by Xanadu researchers, on a human scale, today’s algorithms and supercomputers – the most efficient classical computing systems – would take about 9,000 years to accomplish the same task. . Still, that’s enough for the team to claim the coveted badge of honor of quantum supremacy.

Gaussian boson sampling is a model of photonic quantum computing that has gained attention as a platform for building quantum devices capable of performing tasks beyond the reach of classical devices. Unfortunately, there is no practical use for the GBS workload; it is one of the possible benchmarks for testing the performance of quantum computing solutions against classical computers, a space that is still teeming with attempts to standardize benchmarks from quantum computing players such as IBM .

The QPU Borealis uses photons – rather than superconducting materials or ions – for computation. This process is recent and still little explored. Currently, QPUs mostly use qubits from silicon quantum dots, topological superconductors, pig ions, and other technologies. But researchers expect that photonic-based quantum computing solutions will ultimately be the most efficient way to scale the performance of quantum computers. They explain that it has a huge advantage: it is programmable.

This is primarily due to the advantages of time domain multiplexing, which allows multiple independent data streams to flow simultaneously, masked as a single, more complex signal. Previous experiments have typically relied on static networks in which each component is fixed once made. The chip’s flexibility comes from an ingenious update to the design, an innovative scheme offering impressive control and scaling potential, says Dr. Daniel Jost Brod of Fluminense Federal University in Rio de Janeiro, Australia. Brazil, which did not participate in the study.

Xanadu managed to place 219 photon-based qubits in the Borealis QPU – although the programmable nature of the gates means that this number is not fixed, and the average number of active photons was 129. This is still more than the IBM’s current Eagle QPU, which features 127 qubits, but the company’s roadmap plans to introduce its Osprey QPU, which features up to 433 IBM’s superconducting transmon qubits, later this year. The quantum performance of Borealis is also due to the fact that the researchers designed their system with dynamic programmability on all quantum gates implemented.

This basic circuit allows performing quantum operations using a variable number of qubits. The programmable aspect of Borealis’ quantum gates thus unlocks an FPGA-type architecture that can be reconfigured according to the task to be performed. The researchers further ensured that the solutions calculated for the GBS task were correct, which should settle the debate over whether or not there is a quantum advantage. Xanadu must now continue to develop its solution, presenting very promising results. Eventually, it will also have to convert Borealis into a marketable solution.

However, researchers can already spin up the QPU in Xanadu’s cloud and on Amazon Braket. That’s what we find really great about this project. Many of these breakthroughs are what we need to come up with a quantum computer that is useful to customers,” said Christian Weedbrook, founder and CEO of Xanadu. According to analysts, the results bode well not only for the future of photonics, but also for photonics-based quantum computing. It should be one of the technologies to be examined until the predicted explosion of quantum computing capabilities.

The latter is expected by 2030. As for other recent developments in quantum computing, researchers at the University of South Wales (UNSW) took a big step forward last January to prove that the error-free quantum computing is possible. They provided a device that undertook 99% error-free operations. Meanwhile, November 2021 saw two major breakthroughs in quantum computing.

First, the American Quantum Economic Development Consortium revealed the results of benchmarking experiments that demonstrated how an advanced method of error suppression increased the probability of success of quantum computing algorithms on real hardware. an unprecedented percentage of 2,500%.

Next, engineers at Stanford University demonstrated a new, simpler but more advanced design of a quantum computer that could help practical versions of the machine finally become a reality. In this new model, a single atom becomes entangled with a series of photons, allowing it to process and store more information, as well as to operate at room temperature.

Sources: Xanadu, Study Report

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