Tech giants locked in a race developing quantum computers
(JerusalemPost) The tech giants are locked in a race developing quantum computers. IQT-News summarizes the recent article by Lauren Rosenblatt discussing the competition.
Microsoft aims to win the race to build a new kind of computer. So does Amazon. So do many other smaller firms.
It might not end for another decade, and there might not be just one winner. But, at the finish line, the prize they promise is a quantum computer, that will crack in minutes problems that can’t be solved at all today. Builders describe revolutionary increases in computing power that will accelerate the development of artificial intelligence, help design new drugs and offer new solutions to help fight climate change.
Right now, each company is deciding how to structure the building blocks needed to create a quantum computer. Some rely on semiconductors, others on light. Still others, including Microsoft, have pinned their ambitions on previously unproven theories in physics.
“Bottom line, we are in very heavy experimentation mode in quantum computing, and it’s fairly early days,” said Chirag Dekate, who studies the industry for research firm Gartner. “We are in the 1950s state of classical computer hardware.”
There’s not likely to be a single moment when quantum computers start making the world-changing calculations technologists are looking forward to, said Peter McMahon, an engineering professor at Cornell University. Rather, “there’s going to be a succession of milestones.”
At each one, the company leading the race could change.
In October 2019, Google said it had reached “quantum supremacy,” a milestone where one of its machines completed a calculation that would have taken today’s most advanced computers 10,000 years. In October last year, startup IonQ went public with an initial public offering that valued the company at $2 billion. In November, IBM said it had also created a quantum processor big enough to bypass today’s machines.
In March, it was Microsoft’s turn. After a false start that saw Microsoft retract some research, it said this spring it had proved the physics principles it needed to show that its theory for building a quantum computer was, in fact, possible.
How do they work?
Intel is using semiconductors. Google, IBM and Amazon Web Services are using superconductors. IonQ is taking an approach that puts atoms in a vacuum sealed chamber to create something called “trapped-ion” qubits. Other companies are using light.
Microsoft is aiming to create something new. It’s taking a physics-based approach to create what it calls “topological qubits.” In March, it said it got one step closer by successfully demonstrating the physics behind its qubit philosophy.
Researchers imagine quantum computers being used by businesses, universities and other researchers, though some industry leaders also talk about quantum computing as a technology that will unlock new ideas our brains can’t yet imagine.