Google conquers quantum computing with its new device

Quantum computing has been a source of great imagination for us over three decades now. Popularized by the 21st-century physics on quantum mechanics and the huge scope of applications, especially in space research, quantum computing is a key to mankind’s next big revolution in the domain of computer science. Google has claimed that it has achieved quantum supremacy through a programmable superconducting processor which is miles ahead of the fastest supercomputers available in terms of computing speed. The quantum processor devised by Google is a product of a quantum supremacy experiment to incorporate quantum concepts into a computer which is programmable as well as powerful. The device, christened as ‘Sycamore’ has been able to complete the intended calculations in 200 seconds as claimed by Google. To put it in perspective, it would take the fastest existing supercomputer 10,000 years to do the same calculation with available resources.

What’s inside the Sycamore?

The Sycamore quantum processor consists of a two-dimensional grid of 54 qubits. The qubits are arranged in such a way that each qubit is connected to the nearest four qubits by means of adjustable couplers. As the conducting electrons reach a quantum state, the currents and voltages in the circuit follow quantum mechanics rules. The qubits can be controlled in two ways – one to excite the qubit through a microwave drive and another to tune the frequency through a magnetic flux control. The coupling design in the quantum processor allows for a tuning range of 0 to 40 Hz.

The key to success in achieving quantum-state behavior in Sycamore is the cryogenic chamber where the core setup of the processor is stored. Away from external disturbances, every qubit behaves like a superconductor facilitating electrons to move about and execute the laws of quantum mechanics. The processor consists of aluminium for its metal parts and Josephson junctions, and indium. Signals from the cryogenated processor are amplified and controlled through filters, attenuators and amplifiers.

Scope, Applications and Challenges

The development of Sycamore is to computing technology what Kiti Hawk was to the aerospace industry. Google’s achievement is a harbinger of further developments in quantum computing with players such as IBM already in the fray. While Google scientists have admitted that the Sycamore of today is not of much use, but once the number of qubits employed in such processors reaches thousands, one can imagine realistic devices with quantum capabilities in future. Advanced versions of devices like Sycamore will be capable of performing simulations of chemical reactions enabling scientists to create revolutionary drugs, generating ultra-strong passwords for cybersecurity, cracking cryptographic codes, calculating combinations of elements for building new materials, and solving the many mysteries in space research.

For the huge powers that quantum computers promise, as, in the case of Googles Sycamore, the corresponding errors or challenges are also significant at this stage of evolution of quantum computing. Instability of coherence, caused by factors like vibrations, temperature changes, and other environmental elements, pose the biggest impediments to the rapid success of quantum computing. Present-day developments in quantum computing are challenged by the high cost of operation, especially the hardware which needs cryogenic conditions to function.

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