(MorningBrew) There are computational problems so big that even the best supercomputer in the world can’t crunch the numbers. But a universal, fault-tolerant quantum computer that uses superposition and entanglement will be able to handle the task. When quantum computers can outperform classical computers–we have reached “quantum advantage.”
Researchers aren’t sure how long it will take to reach quantum advantage, but they can agree on one thing: Building a quantum computer is extremely difficult. Nevertheless, quantum computing fundamentals are quite sound, according to Chris Monroe and Andrew Childs, two University of Maryland professors working in quantum and computer science. In the next few years, small-scale experiments will overcome more engineering hurdles, but a working quantum computer with broad impact is still at least a decade away, Travis Humble, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Quantum Computing Institute, told the Brew.
Outside of academia and research labs, Big Tech companies including Microsoft, Intel, IBM, and Google are working on quantum computers and accompanying suites of technology (cloud-based services, software). A handful of startups, including Monroe’s IonQ and Rigetti Computing, have also cemented their place at the forefront of the field.
When quantum advantage is finally reached, it won’t flip a switch and flood the world with universal, scalable quantum computers, says Jerry Chow, manager of IBM’s experimental quantum computing. It is an important benchmark for sure, but a train of incremental improvements and breakthroughs will need to follow to make quantum computers widely available and accessible.

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