Vancouver-based (more accurately, Burnaby-based) D-Wave systems has scored a coup as key customers have upgraded from a 512-qubit system to a system with over 1,000 qubits. (The technical breakthrough and concomitant interest from the business community was mentioned here in a June 26, 2015 posting.) As for the latest business breakthrough, here’s more from a Sept. 28, 2015 D-Wave press release,
D-Wave Systems Inc., the world’s first quantum computing company, announced that it has entered into a new agreement covering the installation of a succession of D-Wave systems located at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. This agreement supports collaboration among Google, NASA and USRA (Universities Space Research Association) that is dedicated to studying how quantum computing can advance artificial intelligence and machine learning, and the solution of difficult optimization problems. The new agreement enables Google and its partners to keep their D-Wave system at the state-of-the-art for up to seven years, with new generations of D-Wave systems to be installed at NASA Ames as they become available.
“The new agreement is the largest order in D-Wave’s history, and indicative of the importance of quantum computing in its evolution toward solving problems that are difficult for even the largest supercomputers,” said D-Wave CEO Vern Brownell. “We highly value the commitment that our partners have made to D-Wave and our technology, and are excited about the potential use of our systems for machine learning and complex optimization problems.”
Cade Wetz’s Sept. 28, 2015 article for Wired magazine provides some interesting observations about D-Wave computers along with some explanations of quantum computing (Note: Links have been removed),
Though the D-Wave machine is less powerful than many scientists hope quantum computers will one day be, the leap to 1000 qubits represents an exponential improvement in what the machine is capable of. What is it capable of? Google and its partners are still trying to figure that out. But Google has said it’s confident there are situations where the D-Wave can outperform today’s non-quantum machines, and scientists at the University of Southern California [USC] have published research suggesting that the D-Wave exhibits behavior beyond classical physics.
A quantum computer operates according to the principles of quantum mechanics, the physics of very small things, such as electrons and photons. In a classical computer, a transistor stores a single “bit” of information. If the transistor is “on,” it holds a 1, and if it’s “off,” it holds a 0. But in quantum computer, thanks to what’s called the superposition principle, information is held in a quantum system that can exist in two states at the same time. This “qubit” can store a 0 and 1 simultaneously.
Two qubits, then, can hold four values at any given time (00, 01, 10, and 11). And as you keep increasing the number of qubits, you exponentially increase the power of the system. The problem is that building a qubit is a extreme difficult thing. If you read information from a quantum system, it “decoheres.” Basically, it turns into a classical bit that houses only a single value.
D-Wave claims to have a found a solution to the decoherence problem and that appears to be borne out by the USC researchers. Still, it isn’t a general quantum computer (from Wetz’s article),
… researchers at USC say that the system appears to display a phenomenon called “quantum annealing” that suggests it’s truly operating in the quantum realm. Regardless, the D-Wave is not a general quantum computer—that is, it’s not a computer for just any task. But D-Wave says the machine is well-suited to “optimization” problems, where you’re facing many, many different ways forward and must pick the best option, and to machine learning, where computers teach themselves tasks by analyzing large amount of data.
It takes a lot of innovation before you make big strides forward and I think D-Wave is to be congratulated on producing what is to my knowledge the only commercially available form of quantum computing of any sort in the world.
ETA Oct. 6, 2015* at 1230 hours PST: Minutes after publishing about D-Wave I came across this item (h/t Quirks & Quarks twitter) about Australian researchers and their quantum computing breakthrough. From an Oct. 6, 2015 article by Hannah Francis for the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald,
For decades scientists have been trying to turn quantum computing — which allows for multiple calculations to happen at once, making it immeasurably faster than standard computing — into a practical reality rather than a moonshot theory. Until now, they have largely relied on “exotic” materials to construct quantum computers, making them unsuitable for commercial production.
But researchers at the University of New South Wales have patented a new design, published in the scientific journal Nature on Tuesday, created specifically with computer industry manufacturing standards in mind and using affordable silicon, which is found in regular computer chips like those we use every day in smartphones or tablets.
“Our team at UNSW has just cleared a major hurdle to making quantum computing a reality,” the director of the university’s Australian National Fabrication Facility, Andrew Dzurak, the project’s leader, said.
“As well as demonstrating the first quantum logic gate in silicon, we’ve also designed and patented a way to scale this technology to millions of qubits using standard industrial manufacturing techniques to build the world’s first quantum processor chip.”
According to the article, the university is looking for industrial partners to help them exploit this breakthrough. Fisher’s article features an embedded video, as well as, more detail.
*It was Oct. 6, 2015 in Australia but Oct. 5, 2015 my side of the international date line.
ETA Oct. 6, 2015 (my side of the international date line): An Oct. 5, 2015 University of New South Wales news release on EurekAlert provides additional details.
Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,
A two-qubit logic gate in silicon by M. Veldhorst, C. H. Yang, J. C. C. Hwang, W. Huang, J. P. Dehollain, J. T. Muhonen, S. Simmons, A. Laucht, F. E. Hudson, K. M. Itoh, A. Morello & A. S. Dzurak. Nature (2015 doi:10.1038/nature15263 Published online 05 October 2015
This paper is behind a paywall.