Published: Tue, March 06, 2018
Hi-Tech | By Grace Becker

Google presents 72-qubit quantum computer

Google presents 72-qubit quantum computer

Google's Quantum AI Lab has shown off a new 72-qubit quantum processor called "Bristlecone", which it says could soon achieve "quantum supremacy" by outperforming a classical supercomputer on some problems. Though quantum supremacy under current rules is still yet-to-be achieved, once that happens computers will increase in both speed and functionality at an exponential rate. According to Google, it achieved best case error rates of 1% for readout, 0.1% for single-qubit gates, and 0.6% for two-qubit gates.

Bristlecone uses the same scheme for coupling, control and readout, but is scaled to a square array of 72 qubits, Google said. Barring a major eureka moment in research, realistic and useful quantum computers could still be years, or even decades, away. They can assign a single system error by applying random quantum circuits to the device and checking the sampled output distribution against a classical simulation. The latest quantum processor, Google's Bristlecone, aims to aid in their quest to cut error rates and eventually scale their quantum processor to finally break the quantum supremacy mark. If a quantum processor can be operated with low enough error, it would be able to outperform a classical supercomputer on a well-defined computer science problem, an achievement known as quantum supremacy.

Bristlecone will serve as a testing ground for the scalability of Google's qubit technology, improvements on system error rates and ML, simulation and optimization applications.

All the competing tech companies developing quantum chips are looking to reach this milestone first, and it has been put forward that it may only take a small number of qubits, potentially somewhere around 49, to reach this breakthrough computing moment. Several iterations of Bristlecone and supporting hardware and software are expected to be needed along the road but Google's researchers are "cautiously optimistic", they will succeed. While Bristlecone is a compelling "proof-of-principle", its successful operation will require careful balancing of every component of the system.

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Speculation is swirling around when Microsoft will make a quantum computing announcement of its own. But, just like Google's, these systems are still far from hitting quantum supremacy. Google's blog post mused that a quantum processor could beat today's supercomputers, once it's working properly.

An ideal quantum computer would have at least hundreds of millions of qubits and an error rate lower than 0.01%. What really sets a quantum computer apart from a regular digital computer is the fundamental nature of how data is encoded via quantum properties like superposition or entanglement.

As we build larger quantum computing devices capable of performing more complicated algorithms, it is important to quantify their power.

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