China’s New Quantum Computer Has 1 Million Times the Power of Google’s

It appears a quantum computer rivalry is growing between the U.S. and China.

Physicists in China claim they’ve constructed two quantum computers with performance speeds that outrival competitors in the U.S., debuting a superconducting machine, in addition to an even speedier one that uses light photons to obtain unprecedented results, according to a recent study published in the peer-reviewed journals Physical Review Letters and Science Bulletin.

China has exaggerated the capabilities of its technology before, but such soft spins are usually tagged to defense tech, which means this new feat could be the real deal.

China’s quantum computers still make a lot of errors

The supercomputer, called Jiuzhang 2, can calculate in a single millisecond a task that the fastest conventional computer in the world would take a mind-numbing 30 trillion years to do. The breakthrough was revealed during an interview with the research team, which was broadcast on China’s state-owned CCTV on Tuesday, which could make the news suspect. But with two peer-reviewed papers, it’s important to take this seriously. Pan Jianwei, lead researcher of the studies, said that Zuchongzhi 2, which is a 66-qubit programmable superconducting quantum computer is an incredible 10 million times faster than Google’s 55-qubit Sycamore, making China’s new machine the fastest in the world, and the first to beat Google’s in two years.

The Zuchongzhi 2 is an improved version of a previous machine, completed three months ago. The Jiuzhang 2, a different quantum computer that runs on light, has fewer applications but can run at blinding speeds of 100 sextillion times faster than the biggest conventional computers of today. In case you missed it, that’s a one with 23 zeroes behind it. But while the features of these new machines hint at a computing revolution, they won’t hit the marketplace anytime soon. As things stand, the two machines can only operate in pristine environments, and only for hyper-specific tasks. And even with special care, they still make lots of errors. «In the next step we hope to achieve quantum error correction with four to five years of hard work,» said Professor Pan of the University of Science and Technology of China, in Hefei, which is in the southeastern province of Anhui.

China’s quantum computers could power the next-gen advances of the coming decades

«Based on the technology of quantum error correction, we can explore the use of some dedicated quantum computers or quantum simulators to solve some of the most important scientific questions with practical value,» added Pan. The circuits of the Zuchongzhi have to be cooled to very low temperatures to enable optimal performance for a complex task called random walk, which is a model that corresponds to the tactical movements of pieces on a chessboard.

The applications for this task include calculating gene mutations, predicting stock prices, air flows in hypersonic flight, and the formation of novel materials. Considering the rapidly increasing relevance of these processes as the fourth industrial revolution picks up speed, it’s no exaggeration to say that quantum computers will be central in key societal functions, from defense research to scientific advances to the next generation of economics.

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Researchers announce photon-phonon breakthrough

New research by a City College of New York team has uncovered a novel way to combine two different states of matter. For one of the first times, topological photons—light—has been combined with lattice vibrations, also known as phonons, to manipulate their propagation in a robust and controllable way. 

The study utilized topological photonics, an emergent direction in photonics which leverages fundamental ideas of the mathematical field of topology about conserved quantities—topological invariants—that remain constant when altering parts of a geometric object under continuous deformations. One of the simplest examples of such invariants is number of holes, which, for instance, makes donut and mug equivalent from the topological point of view. The topological properties endow photons with helicity, when photons spin as they propagate, leading to unique and unexpected characteristics, such as robustness to defects and unidirectional propagation along interfaces between topologically distinct materials. Thanks to interactions with vibrations in crystals, these helical photons can then be used to channel infrared light along with vibrations. 

The implications of this work are broad, in particular allowing researchers to advance Raman spectroscopy, which is used to determine vibrational modes of molecules. The research also holds promise for vibrational spectroscopy—also known as infrared spectroscopy—which measures the interaction of infrared radiation with matter through absorption, emission, or reflection. This can then be utilized to study and identify and characterize chemical substances.

«We coupled helical photons with lattice vibrations in hexagonal boron nitride, creating a new hybrid matter referred to as phonon-polaritons,» said Alexander Khanikaev, lead author and physicist with affiliation in CCNY’s Grove School of Engineering. «It is half light and half vibrations. Since infrared light and lattice vibrations are associated with heat, we created new channels for propagation of light and heat together. Typically, lattice vibrations are very hard to control, and guiding them around defects and sharp corners was impossible before.»

The new methodology can also implement directional radiative heat transfer, a form of energy transfer during which heat is dissipated through electromagnetic waves. 

«We can create channels of arbitrary shape for this form of hybrid light and matter excitations to be guided along within a two-dimensional material we created,» added Dr. Sriram Guddala, postdoctoral researcher in Prof. Khanikaev’s group and the first author of the manuscript. «This method also allows us to switch the direction of propagation of vibrations along these channels, forward or backward, simply by switching polarizations handedness of the incident laser beam. Interestingly, as the phonon-polaritons propagate, the vibrations also rotate along with the electric field. This is an entirely novel way of guiding and rotating lattice vibrations, which also makes them helical.»

Entitled «Topological phonon-polariton funneling in midinfrared metasurfaces,» the study appears in the journal Science. 

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Quantum Biology May Help Solve Some of Life’s Greatest Mysteries

In one of the University of Sheffield’s physics labs, a few hundred photosynthetic bacteria were nestled between two mirrors positioned less than a micrometer apart. Physicist David Coles and his colleagues were zapping the microbe-filled cavity with white light, which bounced around the cells in a way the team could tune by adjusting the distance between the mirrors. According to results published in 2017, this intricate setup caused photons of light to physically interact with the photosynthetic machinery in a handful of those cells, in a way the team could modify by tweaking the experimental setup.1

That the researchers could control a cell’s interaction with light like this was an achievement in itself. But a more surprising interpretation of the findings came the following year. When Coles and several collaborators reanalyzed the data, they found evidence that the nature of the interaction between the bacteria and the photons of light was much weirder than the original analysis had suggested. “It seemed an inescapable conclusion to us that indirectly what [we were] really witnessing was quantum entanglement,” says University of Oxford physicist Vlatko Vedral, a coauthor on both papers.

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Researchers realize efficient generation of high-dimensional quantum teleportation

In a study published in Physical Review Letters, a team led by academician Guo Guangcan from the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has made progress in high dimensional quantum teleportation. The researchers demonstrated the teleportation of high-dimensional states in a three-dimensional six-photon system.

To transmit unknown quantum states from one location to another, quantum teleportation is one of the key technologies to realize long-distance transmission.

Compared with two-dimensional systems, high-dimensional system quantum networks have the advantages of higher channel capacity and better security. In recent years more and more researchers of the quantum information field have been working on generating efficient generation of high-dimensional quantum teleportation to achieve efficient high-dimensional quantum networks.

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