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June 23, 2023

Microsoft says it expects to build a quantum supercomputer within ten years

Microsoft's announcement represents a significant milestone in the advancement of quantum computing

Microsoft has made an announcement on the development of its quantum supercomputer. The company's dedicated researchers have been tirelessly working on topological qubits, and today, they unveiled their roadmap for this groundbreaking endeavor. While there are several milestones to achieve along the way, Microsoft's Vice President of Advanced Quantum Development, Krysta Svore, expressed confidence that they will complete the project in under a decade, resulting in a quantum supercomputer capable of performing a remarkable one million quantum operations per second. This new measurement signifies Microsoft's commitment to advancing beyond the current era of noisy intermediate-scale quantum (NISQ) computing.

Svore emphasized the company's sense of urgency, stating, "We think about our roadmap and the time to the quantum supercomputer in terms of years rather than decades." Microsoft's dedication to accelerated progress is evident in their previous breakthrough: the successful creation of Majorana-based qubits. These qubits, known for their exceptional stability compared to traditional techniques, pose a significant challenge in their fabrication. Microsoft's early investment in this technology has paid off, as the team recently published a new peer-reviewed paper, affirming their achievement of this crucial first milestone toward the quantum supercomputer. The findings, presented in the American Physical Society's Physical Review B, demonstrate substantial progress compared to the initial announcement made a year ago, with results from more devices and a wealth of data.

"We're currently at the foundational implementation level," explained Svore. Microsoft's current quantum machines operate at the noisy intermediate-scale and rely on physical qubits that are not yet reliable enough for practical use in scientific or commercial industries. Svore emphasized the need to reach the resilient level, where physical qubits transition into error-correcting codes and function as logical qubits. To achieve this critical stage, Microsoft envisions a quantum computer capable of performing one million reliable quantum operations per second with a failure rate of only one per trillion operations.

The next phase involves constructing hardware-protected qubits, and Svore revealed significant progress in this area. These qubits will be small, measuring less than 10 microns on each side, and possess the speed necessary to perform a single qubit operation in under a microsecond. Subsequently, the team plans to focus on entangling these qubits through a process known as braiding—an idea that has been under discussion since the early 2000s, primarily as a theory. Following these developments, Microsoft aims to construct a compact multiqubit system and demonstrate a fully functional quantum system. While the roadmap is undeniably ambitious, the timeframe required to achieve the initial milestone highlights the challenges ahead. Microsoft will face competition from the likes of IBM, IonQ, and other industry players engaged in their own quantum endeavors, albeit utilizing more established methods for qubit construction. This sets the stage for an ongoing race to transcend the limitations of the NISQ era.

In addition to sharing their roadmap, Microsoft also unveiled Azure Quantum Elements, a powerful platform combining high-performance computing, AI, and quantum capabilities to accelerate scientific discovery. Furthermore, they introduced Copilot for Azure Quantum, an AI model specifically trained to assist scientists and students in generating quantum-related calculations and simulations.

Neil Hodgson Coyle
Neil Hodgson-Coyle
Editorial chief at TechNews180
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