Microsoft’s new quantum computer shows why they’re so hard to build

The bits won’t stay still



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Fact verified by Jerri Ledford

  • A new paper from Microsoft describes a more reliable way to make quantum computers.

  • Advance uses a new type of matter.

  • Some experts say Microsoft’s findings need to be confirmed.



<p>IBM</p>
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Microsoft scientists say they’ve made an advance that brings practical quantum computers one step closer to reality, but experts say the field is still in its infancy.

Teams around the world are racing to build quantum computers that can surpass classical computers. But high error rates have hampered efforts to build a reliable quantum computer. Now Microsoft researchers say they’ve made a breakthrough that could make quantum computers more reliable.

“Although Microsoft recently shared some interesting experimental results, it hasn’t yet demonstrated an operational qubit, much less multiple qubits running a quantum circuit,” Paul Lipman, chief commercial officer at the quantum computer company, told Lifewire via email. Inflection. “However, we should applaud all efforts toward the eventual goal of a large-scale quantum computer with error correction. Such a device will transform the world for the better, and it is far too early in the race to tell which approach will ultimately end up. In fact, different approaches may prove appropriate for different use cases.”

Quantum Leap?

Microsoft engineers reportedly designed a new way to represent a logical qubit with hardware stability. The device can induce a phase of matter characterized by Majorana’s zero mode, a fermion. Using this type of matter can help produce quantum supercomputers with low error rates.

Microsoft says it has created a way to represent qubits and superposition combined with hardware stability that would be needed to “legitimately start moving toward a commercial quantum computer,” Michael Nizich, director of the Entrepreneurship & Technology Innovation Center at the New York Institute of Technology, he said in an email to Lifewire.

“To date, the complex hardware solutions used in research-based quantum computers have been prone to errors due to their complexity, and Microsoft’s findings could enable the next phase of discussions on commercially available quantum processors and, more importantly, to Microsoft, Quantum Operating Systems (QOS), for starters.”

At the heart of quantum computing are the physics of a viable qubit, the quantum version of the classic binary bit, Bill Lawrence, CISO of cybersecurity firm Hopr, told Lifewire in an email. Qubits operate in the realm of quantum physics, while classical physics is the birthplace of conventional computation.

Conventional computers operate at room temperature and the “Bit” is the basic unit for storage and computation. It is a “1” or a “0”, and bit strings can represent numbers, characters, images, audio, etc., which can be stored and manipulated by conventional computer processors.

The world’s collective quantum computing efforts have been described as a “moonshot.”

Quantum computers operate in the realm of subatomic quantum physics, where something can be a particle or a wave at the same time, Lawrence said. Objects on this tiny scale can be in two places at once, and there are limits to how accurately the value of a physical quantity can be predicted before it is measured, given a full set of initial conditions. Quantum computers use qubits that handle all possible values ​​of each qubit simultaneously, but in a way that the quantum processor can interpret to solve complex problems quickly.

Qubit farming

Using qubits in computers is incredibly difficult. Qubits are extremely sensitive to noise and typically maintain their quantum state for very short periods, Lipman pointed out. He said the largest quantum computers currently available consist of only a few hundred noisy physical qubits.

Dozens of competing companies are pouring research money into qubit technologies, and there are likely over a dozen very different qubit technology approaches underway, Lawrence said.

“Microsoft’s claim appears to be interesting but also controversial, as it claims to solve very important error rate problems by relying on a newly discovered ‘elusive particle’,” he added. “This would imply that significant R&D will still be needed.”



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Creating a commercially valuable quantum computer will require millions of near-perfect qubits, with exquisite control of their quantum state and noise, and sophisticated approaches to error mitigation and correction, Lipman said.

“The world’s collective quantum computing efforts have been described as a ‘moonshot,'” he added. “However, the scientific and engineering challenges needed to realize this quantum computing dream are likely much more difficult than those needed to get people to the moon.”

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