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Goodbye, big and complicated quantum computers; quantum desktop computers are determined to bypass you

There is a compelling reason why quantum computers look so strange and complicated: to function properly and give us valid results, their qubits must work. with a minimum level of energy. In fact, the ideal is that they operate in an environment with a temperature very close to absolute zero. Otherwise, a phenomenon known as quantum decoherence appears that destroys the capabilities that make these computers so special.

Fortunately, technological development has allowed manufacturers of superconducting quantum processors, such as IBM, Google or Intel, among others, to solve this challenge. Not in a definitive way, but in a good enough way that your quantum computers can function properly for a relatively short time. To achieve this, they have developed a cryogenic cooling system that is capable of maintaining quantum hardware at a temperature of unos 20 milikelvin, which are approximately -273 ° C (absolute zero is -273.15 ° C).

The cryogenic cooling system used by quantum computers manages to keep them at -273 ºC, a temperature very close to absolute zero

To sustain this minimum level of energy for as long as possible, and thus prevent the disturbances introduced by thermal energy from altering the quantum state of the qubits, it is necessary to introduce the quantum computer and the cooling system in a vacuum chamber. . As we have just seen, the temperature that this technology allows us to reach is extremely low, but it does not manage to equal absolute zero. And even if we could reach it residual energy will continue to exist, known in quantum mechanics as zero point energy, which is the lowest energy level that a physical system can have.

Quantum computer

In this photograph we can see what the vacuum chamber and the cryogenic cooling system used by quantum computers with superconducting qubits look like.

The consequence of the quantum computer hardware being subjected to a certain level of energetic disturbance, despite the enormous effort that researchers make to isolate it from the outside, is that quantum decoherence ends up appearing which I mentioned a few lines above. And when it does, the quantum effects that allow these computers to carry out an enormous amount of calculations simultaneously go to hell. From this moment on we have a very complex and very expensive quantum computer that behaves like a classical computer.

The most surprising thing is that the quantum processor that contains the superconducting qubits actually it is not much bigger nor very different externally to the microprocessors that reside inside our computers. In fact, in the photograph that we publish above these lines we can see the vacuum chamber and a part of the cryogenic cooling system used by Intel in one of its superconducting quantum computers, but the quantum processor, as you can see in the following image, It is not very different externally from the integrated circuits that we are all familiar with.

Quantum processor
Quantum processor

Quantum processors are not much larger than the microprocessors that we all have inside our computers.

The idea that Quantum Brilliance has implemented is revolutionary. And brilliant

If quantum computers did not need to operate under such extremely demanding conditions to function properly they would be much smaller, simpler and cheaper because it would not be necessary to develop such an advanced cooling system. And the vacuum chamber that we have talked about would not be necessary either. They shouldn’t have to be bigger than the home computers we’re all familiar with. In this paragraph I am using the conditional so as not to rush events, but actually the quantum desktop computer it already exists. You can see it in the cover photo of this article.

The company that created it is called Quantum Brilliance, and it is Australian, although it also has German scientific and financial backing. What he has achieved is, neither more nor less, to develop qubits capable of working correctly at the temperature at which people are comfortable, in the orbit of 20 ºC, so they do not need a cooling system remotely as complex as that used by conventional quantum computers. In fact, this quantum computer, according to its creators, operates successfully in the same environmental conditions in which classical computers work.

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The qubits that this company has developed are different from the superconducting qubits of IBM, Google or Intel. In fact, that difference lies precisely in the sauce in the Quantum Brilliance recipe. Broadly speaking and omitting the most complex details, these peculiar qubits are encapsulated in a synthetic diamond enclosure whose structure has small defects that appear in the form of holes linked to a nitrogen atom.

However, its robustness and its relative immunity to disturbances derived from thermal energy lie in the ability to associate its quantum state with spin. of the atomic nucleus, and not the spin of an electron, which is what conventional superconducting qubits usually do. The nucleus of atoms is less sensitive to thermal fluctuations than electrons, and this property is what allows these qubits, according to their inventors, to work correctly at the ambient temperature at which people feel comfortable.

To act on the qubits and control their operation with precision, Quantum Brilliance is using microwaves, magnetic fields, radio frequency signals and optical pulses. However, this is not the most interesting. The most surprising thing is that the designers of these qubits claim that their strategy allows their quantum computer to remain consistent, and therefore work well, for several milliseconds. It may seem like a very short time, but it is an eternity if we bear in mind that other quantum computers usually preserve it for between 100 and 150 microseconds. In addition, according to the technicians of this company, their qubits have a lower error rate than superconducting qubits.

Quantum Brilliance qubits are, according to this company, capable of preserving coherence for several milliseconds

If you are curious and want to expand this information, you can take a look at this technical document and the article in which we explain in more detail how quantum computers work with superconducting qubits. This all sounds great. Very good. We might think they are selling us smoke, but no. It is real. Quantum Brilliance you are about to install their quantum computers equipped with this technology at the Pawsey Supercomputing Center in Western Australia. Their appearance is what we can see in the cover image of this article, and, surprisingly, they are very similar in size to a traditional desktop computer.

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This “desktop” quantum computer, however, has 5 qubits, far from the 54 qubits of the Sycamore quantum processor with which Google reached quantum supremacy in 2019, and even more so than the 66 qubits of the Zuchongzhi quantum chip. used by researchers at the China University of Science and Technology to reach this very milestone. However, Quantum Brilliance claims that the quantum computer they are currently selling is actually a development kit that serves as a preview of the product they hope to launch in 2025: a 50 qubit quantum accelerator It will be similar in size to a graphics card, and presumably can be installed inside a PC to give it the ability to carry out quantum processing. If they manage to launch something like that, they are likely to eat the market.

Quantum accelerator
Quantum accelerator

This is what, in theory, the 50-qubit quantum accelerator that Quantum Brilliance plans to place on the market in 2025 will look like. It can be installed inside a PC.

Everything we have seen in this article is quite impressive, but it leaves several doubts on the table. The most obvious is that Quantum Brilliance has yet to prove if you can scale your quantum computer Enough so that it can rival for its power with the proposals of the companies with which it is going to compete, which already have machines with several tens of qubits, and which possibly in 2025 will have quantum computers with more than one hundred qubits. In fact, it will blow us away if four years from now it actually succeeds in launching its 50 qubit quantum accelerator.

Those responsible for this company assure that its purpose is to compete face to face with classic computers that have a size and consumption similar to that of their solution. What they are telling us between the lines is that it will be possible to integrate a quantum supercomputer by agglutinating dozens of its 50 qubit quantum accelerators. Whatever happens, users must not lose sight of the fact that one of the great challenges that quantum computers face is precisely developing quantum algorithms that allow us to take advantage of them. We currently have very few and its usefulness is far from the needs of ordinary users, even if in a few years we can install a quantum accelerator inside our PC.

Via | New Atlas

More information | Quantum Brilliance