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Volume 24 Issue 3
COMPLIMENTARY

Dec 2023 | December 2023 | 0 comments

Paving the way for quantum computing era

December 2023 | 0 comments

December 2023

WORLD — Quantum computing, a revolutionary technology still in its nascent stages, is on the brink of transforming the computing world as we know it. This emerging field is no longer confined to the realms of theoretical physics and university laboratories but is rapidly transitioning into practical applications with multinational corporations and venture capitalists heavily investing in its development.
Quantum computing fundamentally differs from classical computing, which relies on bits represented by 0s and 1s. Quantum computers operate using qubits, which, unlike classical bits, can exist simultaneously in multiple states. This capability stems from the principles of quantum mechanics, allowing quantum computers to perform complex calculations at speeds unattainable by traditional computers.
2023 has been a pivotal year in quantum computing, marked by significant advancements and shifts in focus. IBM, a frontrunner in this field, has showcased impressive progress. Their 433-qubit Osprey processor, launched in November 2021, was a testament to their ongoing efforts. However, IBM’s 2023 release, the Heron processor, signals a strategic shift. Despite having fewer qubits, only 133, the Heron’s qubits are of higher quality, with each chip capable of connecting to other processors. This approach paves the way for modular quantum computers, which are expected to significantly enhance scalability.
IBM’s move is reflective of a broader trend in the quantum computing industry, where the emphasis is shifting from merely increasing the number of qubits to improving their quality and interconnectivity. This transition is crucial for overcoming the current limitations in quantum computing, notably error correction and coherence time. Coherence time, the duration a qubit can maintain its quantum state, is vital for effective quantum computing. In this regard, a notable breakthrough was reported by researchers led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory. They achieved a coherence time of 0.1 milliseconds for their single-electron qubit, nearly a thousand times better than previous records. This advancement is significant as it prolongs the window for qubits to perform thousands of operations, a critical requirement for practical quantum computing.
Error correction is another crucial area of development. Quantum systems are inherently susceptible to noise and errors, posing a significant challenge. Addressing this, companies like Google Quantum AI and Quantinuum have demonstrated that qubits can be assembled into error-correcting ensembles, significantly outperforming individual qubits. IBM has also been exploring innovative ways to mitigate noise-induced errors, akin to the principles behind noise-canceling headphones. These efforts represent important steps toward realizing fault-tolerant quantum computers.
The development of quantum computing technologies is not limited to hardware advancements. The software aspect is equally critical, as it determines how effectively quantum computers can be programmed and utilized. Companies like Horizon Quantum Computing and Algorithmic are developing tools and frameworks to facilitate more flexible and efficient quantum computing programming. The integration of quantum computations with classical algorithms, as demonstrated by Algorithmiq’s drug discovery platform Aurora, exemplifies the hybrid approach that is becoming increasingly recognized as essential for the field’s advancement.
Quantum computing’s potential applications are vast and transformative. In cryptography, quantum computers are expected to break current internet encryption algorithms, necessitating the development of quantum-resistant cryptographic technologies. In materials science, quantum computers could simulate molecular structures at the atomic scale, accelerating the discovery of new materials with applications in various domains, including batteries, pharmaceuticals, and fertilizers. Furthermore, quantum computing promises to enhance optimization problems in logistics, finance, and weather forecasting, as well as accelerate progress in machine learning.
Despite these exciting prospects, the quantum computing industry is still navigating its way through several challenges. The technology’s current state, often described as the “noisy intermediate-scale quantum” phase, is characterized by machines of modest size and prone to errors. The ultimate goal is to develop large-scale, error-free quantum computers capable of correcting their own errors. This ambition drives an entire ecosystem of research factions and commercial enterprises, each pursuing diverse technological approaches, including superconducting circuits, trapped ions, silicon-based systems, and photon manipulation.
As the industry progresses, a key milestone that researchers anticipate in the next decade is the demonstration of a genuine “quantum advantage.” This refers to a compelling application where a quantum device is unarguably superior to its digital counterpart. Achieving this milestone, along with better error correction and the establishment of post-quantum cryptography, will be critical in confirming the advent of the quantum era.
The quantum era also promises commercial spin-offs, particularly in quantum sensing, which could have significant real-world applications. The development of modular quantum computing, exemplified by IBM’s Heron project, is a major stride in this direction. This approach involves connecting quantum chips with conventional electronics initially, with the long-term goal of linking them through quantum-friendly connections like fiber-optic or microwave links. The objective is to create large-scale, distributed quantum computers with potentially a million connected qubits, essential for running useful, error-corrected quantum algorithms.
In tandem with hardware advancements, software development is gaining attention. The programming of quantum computers, primarily cloud-accessible and circuit-based, poses challenges for algorithm designers. Horizon Quantum Computing and other firms are developing tools to allow for more flexible computation routines, moving beyond the constraints of conventional programming. Additionally, the concept of “hybrid” quantum computing, combining quantum and classical algorithms, is gaining traction, acknowledging its long-term viability in the quantum computing landscape.
As quantum computing evolves, it’s essential to recognize the broader implications of this technology. For instance, in cryptography, quantum computers will render many of today’s encryption methods obsolete, necessitating a shift to quantum-resistant cryptographic techniques. In materials science, quantum computers’ ability to simulate molecular structures at the atomic scale could revolutionize the discovery of new materials with applications across various industries.
Another crucial application is in the field of optimization, where quantum computers could tackle large-scale problems in logistics, finance, and weather forecasting more efficiently than classical computers. Additionally, quantum computing is poised to significantly impact machine learning, potentially speeding up its progress either indirectly, by enhancing digital computer subroutines, or directly, if quantum computers can be reimagined as learning machines.
However, the industry is still in a developmental phase, with contemporary quantum computing prototypes being of modest size and error-prone. The grand vision is a large-scale, error-correcting quantum computer, a goal pursued by various research factions and commercial enterprises through diverse technological approaches. These include superconductors, ions, silicon, and photons, each with its advantages and challenges.
The future of quantum computing is still uncertain, and forecasting its trajectory is challenging. Yet, several milestones are expected to be reached in the next decade. These include improved error correction, the advent of post-quantum cryptography, commercial applications in quantum sensing, and the demonstration of a clear “quantum advantage,” where quantum devices outperform their digital alternatives in specific applications.
Ultimately, the realization of a large-scale, error-free quantum computer would firmly establish the 21st century as the “quantum era.” This transition will not only redefine computing but also have far-reaching impacts across various scientific and technological domains.
As quantum computing moves out of experimental phases and into more practical applications, the implications are far-reaching. From revolutionizing cryptography and materials science to impacting machine learning and optimization problems, the potential applications are vast. However, the journey to fully operational, large-scale quantum computers is ongoing, with significant milestones expected in the next decade, including better error correction, post-quantum cryptography, commercial quantum sensing applications, and the demonstration of clear quantum advantage.
The quantum era represents not just a technological shift but a fundamental change in how we solve complex problems, promising a future where quantum computing plays a pivotal role in various scientific and technological domains. As we edge closer to this reality, the excitement and anticipation within the scientific community and beyond continue to grow, heralding a transformative period in computing and technology.

Jeremy Webb

Based in Mohave Valley, Arizona, Jeremy Webb is a dedicated website designer and developer with a keen eye for detail. Transitioning from a background in retail sporting goods management, he now crafts digital spaces that resonate with audiences. Beyond the screen, Jeremy is a passionate writer, delving into topics ranging from business innovations and Arizona’s unique landscapes to the latest tech trends and compelling local narratives. Visit his website at JeremyWebb.Dev

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