Tech

Google unveils new quantum computing processor called Bristlecone

Google unveils new quantum computing processor called Bristlecone

Google reckons it's on the cusp of demonstrating "quantum supremacy" with the development of a 72-qubit processor. This device uses the same scheme for coupling, control, and readout, but is scaled to a square array of 72 qubits.

"We believe Bristlecone would then be a compelling proof-of-principle for building larger scale quantum computers", explained Julian Kelly, research scientist at Google's Quantum AI Lab.

Quantum supremacy is key milestone on the journey towards quantum computing. Moreover, the ability to test a system for quantum supremacy is confounded by the very fact that classical computers can not be used to compare test results. The dream of quantum supremacy is yet to be realized.

Creating a stable processor with more qubits in every iteration is no easy feat, but it's not the only thing quantum researchers have to worry about. Specifically, Google wants to use Bristlecone to investigate ways to lower quantum computing error rates.

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Quantum supremacy is the threshold at which a quantum computer performs in a way that traditional computers are practically incapable of doing (or, otherwise, the use of a traditional computer for a given task would be infeasible.) As a basic type of benchmark, quantum supremacy can be established by executing Shor's algorithm to factor integers with a superpolynomial speedup compared to the fastest algorithm executable on a traditional computer. Alibaba, looking to grow its presence in the global cloud and quantum markets, announced an 11-qubit quantum processor available through its cloud platform last week.

"We are cautiously optimistic that quantum supremacy can be achieved with Bristlecone, and feel that learning to build and operate devices at this level of performance is an exciting challenge!", writes Kelly.

At the moment this is all research and testing, so we won't be expecting to see a quantum computing powered Google Assistant anytime soon. However, operating a system such as a Bristlecone at low system error is extremely challenging and requires harmony between a full stack of technology ranging from software and control electronics to the processor itself.

Intel's 48-qubit test chip. IBM, Google, Intel and Rigetti will likely be at about 150-300 qubits by the end of 2018. It's similar to the concept of logic gates in classical computing. The origin of a quantum computer's power is already subtle, and a quantum computer's performance depends on many factors that can make assessing its power challenging.


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