Chinese researchers have claimed to have achieved quantum supremacy, building a quantum computer capable of performing calculations trillions of times faster than today’s most powerful supercomputers.
According to an article published in the journal Science On Thursday, the computer, developed by a team of scientists from the China University of Science and Technology in central Hefei, computed almost 100tn times faster than existing supercomputers.
The breakthrough comes a year after Google proclaimed itself the first to take the leap with its Sycamore machine.
According to Lu Chaoyang, professor in charge of the experiment at USTC, the Chinese computer made the breakthrough by manipulating particles of light. This contrasts with Google’s supercomputer, which relied on ultra-cold superconducting chips.
Christine Silberhorn, an expert in quantum optics at the University of Paderborn in Germany, called the work of the Chinese team a “remarkable experience”.
Although the use of quantum machines to solve practical problems is still years away, the emerging field is hotly contested, with the United States and China rushing to gain advantages in areas such as encryption and problem solving. complex issues.
In 2017, Ms. Silberhorn was one of the co-developers of the technique known as “Gaussian Boson Harvesting,” which the Chinese team relied on with their machine. “The concepts used were in the literature, but this experience demonstrates scaling up, which is a critical step,” she said.
China’s state-run news agency Xinhua claimed that the computer, which includes lasers, mirrors, prisms and photon detectors, could process 10 billion times faster than the quantum computer. unveiled by Google last year. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Lu said he admired Google’s work. “Building a quantum computer is a race between humans and nature, not between countries,” he said, adding that so far, “the quantum machine can only do one specific job, not all of them. jobs. It is not yet fully programmable. This is something that we are working on. “
If they can be built on a large scale, quantum computers will exploit properties that go beyond the limits of classical physics to deliver exponential gains in computing power.
“Scientists are close to useful quantum machines that can do something non-trivial,” Lu added.
Richard Murray, managing director of London-based quantum computing company ORCA, said the news was encouraging for the entire industry.
“There are still people who wonder if quantum computers will be a reality,” he said. “With two systems having reached this baseline, this argument seems rather unlikely.”
Additional reporting by Nian Liu in Beijing