The emergence of quantum computing has led industry heavyweights to fast track their research and innovations. This week, Google conducted the largest chemical simulation on a quantum computer to date. The U.S. Department of Energy, on the other hand, launched five new Quantum Information Science (QIS) Research Centers. Will this accelerate quantum computings progress?
Quantum technology is the next big wave in the tech landscape. As opposed to traditional computers where all the information emails, tweets, YouTube videos, and Facebook photos are streams of electrical pulses in binary digits, 1s and 0s; quantum computers rely on quantum bits or qubits to store information. Qubits are subatomic particles, such as electrons or photons which change their state regularly. Therefore, they can be 1s and 0s at the same time. This enables quantum computers to run multiple complex computational tasks simultaneously and faster when compared to digital computers, mainframes, and servers.
Introduced in the 1980s, quantum computing can unlock the complexities across different industries much faster than traditional computers. A quantum computer can decipher complex encryption systems that can easily impact digital banking, cryptocurrencies, and e-commerce sectors, which heavily depend on encrypted data. Quantum computers can expedite the discovery of new medicines, aid in climate change, power AI, transform logistics, and design new materials. In the U.S., technology giants, including IBM, Google, Honeywell, Microsoft, Intel, IonQ, and Rigetti Computing, are leading the race to build quantum computers and gain a foothold in the quantum computing space. Whereas Alibaba, Baidu, Huawei are leading companies in China.
For a long time, the U.S. and its allies, such as Japan and Germany, had been working hard to compete with China to dominate the quantum technology space. In 2018, the U.S. government released the National Strategy Overview for Quantum Information Science to reduce technical skills gaps and accelerate quantum computing research and development.
In 2019, Google claimed quantum supremacy for supercomputers when the companys Sycamore processor performed specific tasks in 200 seconds, which would have taken a supercomputer 10,000 years to complete. In the same year, Intel rolled out Horse Ridge, a cryogenic quantum control chip, to reduce the quantum computing complexities and accelerate quantum practicality.
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Whats 2020 Looking Like For Quantum Computing?
In July 2020, IBM announced a research partnership with the Japanese business and academia to advance quantum computing innovations. This alliance will deepen ties between the countries and build an ecosystem to improve quantum skills and advance research and development.
More recently, in June 2020, Honeywell announced the development of the worlds highest-performing quantum computer. AWS, Microsoft, and several other IaaS providers have announced quantum cloud services, an initiative to advance quantum computing adoption. In August 2020, AWS announced the general availability of its Amazon Braket, a quantum cloud service that allows developers to design, develop, test, and run quantum algorithms.
Since last year, auto manufacturers, such as Daimler and Volkswagen have been leveraging quantum computers to identify new methods to improve electric vehicle battery performance. Pharmaceutical companies are also using the technology to develop new medicines and drugs.
Last week, the Google AI Quantum team used their quantum processor, Sycamore, to simulate changes in the configuration of a chemical molecule, diazene. During the process, the computer was able to describe the changes in the positions of hydrogen accurately. The computer also gave an accurate description of the binding energy of hydrogen in bigger chains.
If quantum computers develop the ability to predict chemical processes, it would advance the development of a wide range of new materials with unknown properties. Current quantum computers, unfortunately, lack the augmented scaling required for such a task. Although todays computers are not ready to take on such a challenge yet, computer scientists hope to accomplish this in the near future as tech giants like Google invest in quantum computing-related research.
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It, therefore, came as a relief to many computer scientists when the U.S. Department of Energy announced an investment of $625 million over the next five years for five newly formed Quantum Information Science (QIS) Research Centers in the U.S. The newly formed hubs are an amalgam of research universities, national labs, and tech titans in quantum computing. Each of the research hubs is led by the Energy Departments Argonne National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Fermi National Laboratory, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; powered by Microsoft, IBM, Intel, Riggeti, and ColdQuanta. This partnership aims to advance quantum computing commercialization.
Chetan Nayak, general manager of Quantum Hardware at Microsoft, says, While quantum computing will someday have a profound impact, todays quantum computing systems are still nascent technologies. To scale these systems, we must overcome a number of scientific challenges. Microsoft has been tackling these challenges head-on through our work towards developing topological qubits, classical information processing devices for quantum control, new quantum algorithms, and simulations.
At the start of this year, Daniel Newman, principal analyst and founding partner at Futurum Research, predicted that 2020 will be a big year for investors and Silicon Valley to invest in quantum computing companies. He said, It will be incredibly impactful over the next decade, and 2020 should be a big year for advancement and investment.
Quantum computing is still in the development phase, and the lack of suppliers and skilled researchers might be one of the influential factors in its establishment. However, if tech giants, and researchers continue to collaborate on a large scale, quantum technology can turbocharge innovation at a large scale.
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