This Wednesday, Google has made a great achievement in technology and published a scientific paper in the journal Nature alongside it, talking about achieving an idea ‘Quantum Supremacy’. The paper detailed how its quantum computer with a Google-designed quantum processor called Sycamore, outpaced even the most powerful supercomputer to date in a task completing it in 3 minutes instead of what would have taken 10,000 years otherwise.
The importance of Google’s achievement is as hard to understand as quantum computing itself is a field made possible by the mind-bending behavior of atomic-scale physics. Even though we are not there yet at making it a huge commercial and to implement it in the everyday lifestyle it’s still a huge step in the right direction. Quantum computing is only beginning to show some of the promise researchers have hyped for decades. We’re still several breakthroughs away from seeing the true potential fulfilled.
What will quantum computers be used for?
Google’s quantum researchers are already turning their attention to the next steps needed to make their machines more broadly useful, a step Intel calls quantum practicality. Now they are able to start experimenting and do tests that could lead to monumental advances in specific fields.
Google has a lot of practical uses in mind:
- Complicated optimization problems, such as calculating how to deliver packages in the shortest time while using the least energy. “Optimization problems occur everywhere at every company anywhere in the world,” Bacon said. Addressing those challenges could both save money and help the environment.
- Improving encryption technology by generating random numbers. Google’s quantum team is talking to its encryption key generation team about using a random-number generation tool it’s already developed for today’s Sycamore machine.
- Building machine learning systems better at tasks like distinguishing between real and fake items like bogus political videos. This was the original impetus for Neven’s work, and Google researchers think it could be the first area to deliver on quantum computing’s promise.
- Perhaps most interesting, simulating the real physics of molecular-scale materials. Revolutionary developments there could mean more efficient solar panels, a new way to produce nitrogen fertilizer without needing so much energy and better electric car batteries.
The promise of quantum computers is that computational tasks might be executed exponentially faster on a quantum processor than on a classical processor. A fundamental challenge is to build a high-fidelity processor capable of running quantum algorithms in an exponentially large computational space.
In the early 1980s, Richard Feynman proposed that a quantum computer would be an effective tool with which to solve problems in physics and chemistry, given that it is exponentially costly to simulate large quantum systems with classical computers. Realizing Feynman’s vision poses substantial experimental and theoretical challenges.
The Future for quantum computing
Quantum processors based on superconducting qubits can now perform computations in a Hilbert space of dimension 253 ≈ 9 × 1015, beyond the reach of the fastest classical supercomputers available today. To our knowledge, this experiment marks the first computation that can be performed only on a quantum processor. Quantum processors have thus reached the regime of quantum supremacy. This means the future is quite bright and wonderful for the advance of technology in many fields and possible to achieve massive breakthroughs that could shape the next 100 years.