To understand the significance of Quantinuum’s latest research, it’s important to first understand why quantum error correction plays such an important role in quantum computing.
Solutions to world-class problems such as climate change, new drugs, custom design of new materials, long-range electric vehicle batteries and many other applications are beyond the computing power of today’s most powerful supercomputers.
Quantum computing is not just a faster or larger type of computer. It’s fundamentally a different kind of computing technology, rooted in the strange and weird world of quantum mechanics. Quantum computing has the potential to solve huge and complex problems quickly, but only if equipped with the large number of quantum bits (qubits) necessary to do the job.
For example, a classical computer may never be able to crack Bitcoin’s encryption key, even given the remaining lifetime of the universe to solve it.according to University of Sussex In the UK, it takes about 24 hours for a quantum computer with 13 million qubits to crack the key to bitcoin. Increasing the number of qubits to 300 million qubits could reduce the solution time of a quantum computer to about an hour or less.
For perspective, today’s quantum computers have a small number of qubits, ranging from 50 to a few hundred qubits, and possibly thousands in a few years. As the University of Sussex example shows, this is still only a fraction of the amount required to do serious and useful computation.
Can’t we add a lot of qubits to a quantum computer?
Physical and engineering considerations related to qubit fidelity and error correction limit the temporary addition of large numbers of qubits to a quantum computer. Quantum scientists have yet to develop a usable and scalable way to correct errors.
Classical computers rarely make mistakes, so if you flip a few bits from trillions of calculations, it makes little difference. Unlike classical computer bits, which operate exactly as 1s or 0s, qubits operate in a quantum superposition state, and the precision is not exactly 1 or 0.
Qubits are also susceptible to errors caused by environmental factors such as noise, cables and even other qubits.Qubit errors can even occur when exposed to relatively weak environments Galactic space radiationFurthermore, the quantum state of the qubit deteriorates rapidly, requiring the quantum computer to start up and complete its full operation before the quantum state collapses. It is no exaggeration to say that every part of the quantum computing process is a potential source of qubit errors.
Quantum error correction (QEC) is complicated not only by its quantum nature, but also by the existence of many types of qubit errors. Depending on quantum technology and processes, error counts can range from one error per hundred calculations to one error per thousands of calculations.
Error correction is necessary because it will allow us to build large, fault-tolerant quantum computers that can scale to hundreds of thousands of error-correcting qubits.
Significance of Quantinuum’s Fault Tolerance Achievement
Quantinuum has published the first research paper using real-time error correction to demonstrate a fault-tolerant end-to-end circuit with entangled logic qubits. This is also the first time that two error-correcting logic qubits perform circuits with higher fidelity than their constituent physical qubits.
Importantly, the fault-tolerant demonstration of Quantinuum creates a new starting point that may enable future researchers to scale up the number of qubits.
Notably, Quantinuum’s QCCD architecture makes a significant contribution to the company’s ongoing research and allows for geometric experiments. The flexibility of the QCCD region allows for arbitrary and experimental rearrangement of qubits to accommodate codes with exotic geometries and codes that are not one- or two-dimensional, especially when compared to quantum computers with fixed geometries. The QCCD design was originally developed by David Wineland’s group at NIST in 1998 Thesis.
Although the original QCCD architecture contained some unresolved technical issues, Tony Uttley, former president of Honeywell Quantum Systems and the Honeywell team, decided to use the QCCD architecture to develop the company’s next-generation quantum systems. Uttley is fully aware of these risks and decides to offset what he believes to be manageable risks with opportunities for greater returns.
The decision to use the QCCD architecture has been vindicated given the technological achievements of Quantinuum in 2022 and earlier.
Connect 2022 points
The following list details the progress Quantinuum has made that lays the groundwork for follow-up research in 2022 and beyond.
- March 3 – World record SPAM (State Preparation and Measurement Error) using Barium-137 provides near-future physical state preparation and measurement (SPAM) error rate at 105 scope. Improving spam fidelity helps reduce errors that accumulate in today’s “noisy” quantum machines, which is critical for migrating to fault-tolerant systems to prevent errors from cascading through the system and breaking circuits.
- April 14 – Quantinuum’s sixth quantum volume record is measured at 4,096 (212). The QCCD architecture allows for an increase in qubits with a corresponding increase in fidelity. Importantly, the increased fidelity is necessary as more qubits are added to the road to ensure it is computationally useful. The Quantinuum H1-2 system used all 12 qubits for this new milestone, suggesting that more qubits will be added soon by Quantinuum.
- May 24 – InQuanto launch. It is a quantum computational chemistry software platform for computational chemists. The platform can only operate accurately using high-performance quantum hardware systems such as Quantinuum’s H1 series.
- June 14 – Upgrade from 12 to 20 qubits to the H1-1 machine. The number of gate areas in the QCCD architecture has also been increased from 3 to 5 to allow for more simultaneous operations and improved parallelization of circuit execution. Preliminary planning and work in 2021 set the stage for this upgrade.
- July 11 – Interfacial transport with barium and ytterbium, a measurement scaling method utilizing a two-dimensional grid. It allows two different species of ions to pass together as a pair through the junction in the surface trap. This will be incorporated into the future design of the system model H3. It is expected to help scale and provide faster computation, allowing more qubits to be added, and reducing errors.
- July 20 – New phase of matter realized in H1-1 as described in research paper: “Dynamic Topological Phase Realized in a Trapped Ion Quantum Simulator” (Peer 2021 in Nature Comment)
- August 4 – New quantum dynamics simulation technique demonstrated as described in research paper: “Holographic dynamics simulations with a trap-ionquantum computer” (peer-reviewed work to be published in Nature Physics 2021)
- Aug. 4 – This article is based on this research paper: “Implementation of fault-tolerant entanglement gates on five-qubit codes and color codes.” This work confirms a future in which real-time quantum error correction paves the way for fault-tolerant mechanisms.
Correcting errors in real time is critical to the continued development of reliable large-scale quantum computing. Error correction is a top priority for almost every company in the quantum ecosystem; that’s why a lot of research is being done by many companies and universities.
Quantinuum takes a small but very important two-qubit step towards fault tolerance. It opens the door to a new and promising research direction.
Without fault tolerance, today’s quantum computing technology will not be able to solve the important world-class computing problems we hope it will solve. So the question is – can we do it? Absolutely, in my opinion.
Note: The authors and editors of Moor Insights & Strategy may have contributed to this article.
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