Quantum chip performs task in microseconds that would take a supercomputer 9,000 years, the chip manufacturer claims quantum advantage

The Canadian company Xanadu Quantum Technologies recently announced a “major” breakthrough with a new device capable of outperforming any supercomputer in the world for a specific task. Xanadu has announced that it has designed a quantum chip called Borealis, which has achieved a “quantum advantage” that provides a fast result that goes beyond the current capabilities of traditional computer systems. Borealis would have completed a task of only 36 millionths of a second that would take an average supercomputer 9,000 years.

Breakthroughs in quantum computing seem to be coming and going, but technology is struggling to find its audience. Xanadu’s achievement is the latest to demonstrate the power of quantum computing over conventional computers, a seemingly simple idea known as quantum domination. In theory, this concept makes sense. Unlike conventional computers, which calculate in order using binary bits – 0 or 1 -, quantum units utilize 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 device 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 surpass any supercomputer, regardless of the problem, in speed and efficiency. Quantum domination has been the driving force behind the promotion of a new generation of computers that is completely foreign to everything that has come before.

Called “Borealis”, Xanadus QPU (“quantum processing units” or “quantum chips”) would have performed the Gaussian boson sampling (GBS – “Gaussian boson sampling”) calculation task 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 computer systems – would take about 9,000 years to perform the same task. . Still, it is enough for the team to claim the coveted badge of honor for quantum supremacy.

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

QPU Borealis uses photons – rather than superconducting materials or ions – for computation. This process is new and still a bit researched. Currently, QPUs mostly use qubits from silicon quantum dots, topological superconductors, pigions, and other technologies. But researchers expect that photonic-based quantum computer solutions will ultimately be the most effective way to scale quantum computer performance. They explain that it has a huge advantage: it is programmable.

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

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

This basic circuit allows quantum operations to be performed using a variable number of qubits. Thus, the programmable aspect of Borealis’ quantum gates 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 determine the debate as to whether there is a quantum advantage. Xanadu must now continue to develop its solution and present very promising results. Ultimately, it must also convert Borealis into a market-friendly solution.

However, researchers can already now spin the QPU up in Xanadu’s cloud and on Amazon Braket. That’s what we’re really good at 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 computation. It should be one of the technologies to be investigated until the predicted explosion of quantum computational capabilities.

The latter is expected in 2030. As for other recent developments in quantum computation, researchers at the University of South Wales (UNSW) took a major step forward in January last year to prove that flawless quantum computation is possible. They provided a device that performed 99% flawless 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 showed 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, yet 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 is wrapped in a series of photons, allowing it to process and store more information, as well as to function at room temperature.

Sources: Xanadu, Study Report

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