UK scientists make quantum breakthrough
Researchers from the University of Sussex and Universal Quantum have demonstrated for the first time that quantum bits (qubits) can directly transfer between quantum computer microchips.
The team of scientists has come a step closer to making multi-tasking 'quantum' computers, far more powerful than even today's most advanced supercomputers.
The University of Sussex and Universal Quantum team used a new technique, which they dub ‘UQ Connect’, to use electric field links to enable qubits to move from one quantum computing microchip module to another with unprecedented speed and precision.
The technique allows chips to slot together like a jigsaw puzzle to make a more powerful quantum computer.
The scientists were successful in transporting the qubits with a 99.999993 per cent success rate and a connection rate of 2424/s. Both of these numbers are world records and orders of magnitude better than previous solutions.
“It’s fantastic to see that the inspired work of the University of Sussex and Universal Quantum physicists has resulted in this phenomenal breakthrough, taking us a significant step closer to a quantum computer that will be of real societal use," said Professor Sasha Roseneil, vice-chancellor of the University of Sussex.
While most computers process data in bits, with a binary value of either zero or one, quantum computers use a two-state unit for data processing called a qubit, which represents several digits simultaneously through a process known as superposition.
By being able to bridge binary digits, and cope with high levels of uncertainty, the devices can make highly complex calculations that cannot be done by regular computers.
Today, quantum computers operate on the 100-qubit scale. However, experts anticipate millions of qubits are required to solve important problems that are out of reach of today’s most powerful supercomputers. The recent breakthrough could pave the way for this technology.
"Right now we have quantum computers with very simple microchips," said Professor Winfried Hensinger, who led the research at Sussex University. "What we have achieved here is the ability to realise extremely powerful quantum computers capable of solving some of the most important problems for industries and society."
The UK has shown ambitions to be the world’s first quantum-ready economy. As part of this, in 2020, the UK pledged £10m of funding back in 2020 to build the country’s first quantum computer.
The Sussex team is also working with Rolls Royce to develop machines that could help them design even better jet engines.
“Our relentless focus is on providing people with a tool that will enable them to revolutionise their field of work," said Dr Sebastian Weidt, CEO and co-founder of Universal Quantum.
"The Universal Quantum and University of Sussex teams have done something truly incredible here that will help make our vision a reality. These exciting results show the remarkable potential of Universal Quantum’s quantum computers to become powerful enough to unlock the many life-changing applications of quantum computing.”
Professor Leigh Lapworth, Rolls-Royce fellow in computational sciences, explained the significance of the breakthrough for the aerospace company. “We have an ambition to model an entire gas turbine in high fidelity [but] these are calculations that require thousands of times more computing resources than we currently use.” Eventually, with quantum computing, whole engine calculations that take months could be completed in days or even hours, he says. However, he adds, “today’s quantum computers are still research devices, and achieving the scale needed for whole engine simulations is many years away”.
Quantum computing has been on the rise over the past few years, with experts suggesting that the technology could provide up to £4bn of economic opportunities globally by 2024 alone, while productivity gains could surpass over £341bn within the next few decades.
The findings of their research was published in the journal Nature Communications.
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