Findings were recently published in Nature, which outlined how Harvard-led physicists built a programmable quantum simulator (computer) that can operate with 256 qubits (quantum bits). The novel processor is a huge step toward creating massive quantum machines, which could lead to real-world breakthroughs. The fastest supercomputers today would easily be outperformed by a quantum computer. Quantum computers run on qubits, which help them process so powerfully.
Mikhail Lukin, the George Vasmer Leverett Professor of Physics, co-director of the Harvard Quantum Initiative, and senior author of the study, said, “This moves the field into a new domain where no one has ever been to thus far. We are entering a completely new part of the quantum world.”
Sepehr Ebadi, a physics student and the study’s lead author, suggested the combination of the system’s unprecedented size and programmability is what makes it cutting edge.
The race to building a quantum computer has been going on for quite some time. Dubbed the new “space race” by some, Forbes recently published an article called, “27 Milestones in The History of Quantum Computing,” dating back to Albert Einstein in 1905. The term “quantum mechanics” was first used in 1924 by Max Born. Between China, the United States, Google, IBM, and many more, the race has been hot for years.
The more qubits each system has, the more information it can store. With a higher processing power, the computer can handle exponentially more data. Ebadi explained quantum computer systems’ immense size by saying, “The number of quantum states that are possible with only 256 qubits exceeds the number of atoms in the solar system.”
Tout Wang, a research associate in physics at Harvard and an author in the paper said, “Our work is part of a really intense, high-visibility global race to build bigger and better quantum computers. The overall effort has top academic research institutions involved and major private-sector investment from Google, IBM, Amazon, and many others.”
The subsequent steps for the Harvard researchers include advancing laser control, making the system more programmable, along with studying new applications such as deciphering complex real-world problems.
Ebadi said, “This work enables a vast number of new scientific directions. We are nowhere near the limits of what can be done with these systems.”
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