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The Race of the Quantum

Quantum computing is developing and improving with each day as the quantum technology is developing. Many researchers and developer have joined hands with the biggest technical companies to improve, stabilize, and commercialize this technology.

A Group of Chinese developer is reported to be leading the race of the quantum computing till July 2021, but Google, IBM, Intel and other quantum computer developers are also not far behind of the country in this race. Google, IBM and others developers have made their first wave of quantum computers, but these systems are still in the early stages and are not yet ready to be used in commercial applications. But it is too early to declare the forerunners of this race at this early stage.

Source: Open Source For You

Conventionally in today’s computing, the information is stored in binary bits, which can be either a “0” or “1”. But in case of quantum computing the information can be stored as a combination of “0” and “1” as well as by binary only and this is termed as quantum bits or qubits. This combination helps the computer to perform more calculation at once at a lesser effort. But the technology is still developing and it may take almost a decade to commercially launch this technology yet.

However, that’s not stopping companies, governments, R&D organizations and universities from developing the technology and pouring billions of dollars into the arena. If they are realized, quantum computers could accelerate the development of new chemistries, drugs and materials. The systems also could crack any encryption, which has made their development a top priority among several nations. And across the board, it could provide companies and countries with a competitive edge.

“Quantum computing is at the forefront of national initiatives,” Amy Leong, senior vice president of FormFactor said, “There have been more than $20 billion in investments announced across 15 countries here. Geopolitical powerhouses like the U.S. and China are certainly leading the race to claim quantum supremacy, followed by a host of others from Europe and Asia.”

The competition is heating up between nations and organizations alike. In a significant milestone, the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) revealed what experts believe is the world's fastest quantum computing processor in June 2021, beating Google's 53-qubit device, which had held the unofficial record since 2019. The 66-qubit processor at USTC completed a complicated calculation in 1.2 hours that would have taken 8 years on today's supercomputers.

“When I take a look at the first applications, we’re going to need several thousand, if not 100,000 qubits, to do something useful,” James Clarke, director of quantum hardware at Intel said in an interview . “If we’re at 50 to 60 qubits today, it’s going to be a while before we can get to 100,000 qubits. It’s going to be awhile before we can get to 1 million qubits, which would be necessary for cryptography.”

In the meantime, there is a race within a race. Vendors are working on a dozen different types of qubits using a variety of technologies like ion trapping, silicon spin, and superconductivity. Each camp's vendors say that their technology is superior and will allow for the development of practical quantum computers. It's also too early to declare a winner in terms of technology.

Nonetheless, the market appears to be promising. According to Hyperion Research, the quantum computer industry will expand from $320 million in 2020 to $830 million in 2024.

The Race between the Classical and Quantum computing

When seen as a timescale, the computing field has advanced tremendously. ENIAC, the first general-purpose electronic digital computer, was constructed by the University of Pennsylvania in 1945. ENIAC processed data at a rate of 5,000 additions per second using vacuum tubes. Electrons were controlled with the help of vacuum tubes. The 1950s saw the transition from vacuum tubes to the transistors. This development has also resulted in a more enabled and fast computers.

Meanwhile, Control Data, now defunct, introduced the CDC 6600, the world's first supercomputer, in 1964. The 6600 had a 60-bit CPU with 2 MIPS of performance based on transistors.

In today's world, the smart phone is faster than the earliest computers. The A14 CPU, which is built on TSMC's 5nm technology, is used in Apple's iPhone 12. The A14 has 11.8 billion transistors, a 6-core CPU, and a 16-core neural engine that can perform 11 trillion operations per second.

Fugaku, the

Source: GAVS Technology

world's fastest supercomputer, maintained its position as the world's fastest supercomputer in 2021. Fugaku is based on Arm's A64FX CPU and was developed by Riken and Fujitsu. It has 7,630,848 cores and can perform 442 petaflops per second. A petaflop is a unit of computing power that executes one quadrillion floating-point operations per second.

Fugaku is up and running, and it's being used for a variety of applications. In a paper presented at the 2021 Symposia on VLSI Technology and Circuits, Satoshi Matsuoka, director of Riken's Centre for Computational Science, said, "(Fugaku) embodies technologies realised for the first time in a major server general-purpose CPU, such as 7nm process technology, on-package integrated HBM2, terabyte-class streaming capabilities, and an on-die embedded high-performance network."

“We are well into the petaflop computing era,” said Aki Fujimura, the CEO of D2S “There are many research computers around the globe that are approaching exascale computing (1,000 petaflops). We will have many exascale computers by the end of this decade.”

Indeed, the biotechnology, defense, materials research, health, physics, and weather prediction industries all demand increased compute capacity to handle present and future problems.

“We need to compute more at the same price. The problems are getting harder. The problems we serve are getting bigger and harder on top of that,” said Fujimura.

While traditional computing will continue to advance, the quantum computing sector is racing to catch up. These new devices have the potential to outperform today's supercomputers, thus speeding up the development of new technology.

Quantum computers are projected to be able to crack the world's most complicated algorithms in a reasonable amount of time in the future. Shor's algorithm, for example, is an integer factorization problem that can be used to break the commonly used RSA public-key cryptography method.

Quantum computing, which was first proposed in the 1980s, has made significant progress over the years. Two systems have just attained “quantum supremacy.” This is the point at which quantum computers can perform tasks that a traditional computer cannot.

Quantum computing is still in its infancy. Work is currently being done to improve these systems and identify practical uses for the technology. “All systems that exist today are primarily used to explore future quantum applications, including looking at variationally quantum algorithms for quantum chemistry, and quantum kernel estimation methods for machine learning,” according to IBM's head of quantum hardware system development, Jerry Chow. “The systems that are deployed today are also interesting from the standpoint of benchmarks and characterization of their own performance, and to understand underlying noise sources to improve future iterations of these systems. One other aspect is to explore the concept of quantum error correction.”

Even if quantum computers reach their full capability, they will not be able to replace current computers. “Quantum computing is clearly an important future technology for some types of computing problems. Prime factorization is another task that quantum computing is known to be far superior at than classical computing,” said D2S’ Fujimura “In a way, quantum computing will augment classical computing for some specific difficult problems. On a larger scale, quantum computing will not replace classical computing. Classical computing is more appropriate for many of the tasks we need to compute.”

Today's quantum computers are unique, resembling massive chandeliers. The processor and other components are protected from external noise and heat by a dilution refrigerator. The device is cooled between 10 and 15 millikelvin by the unit.

The qubits are integrated into a processor in a quantum system. There are two types of qubit gates: one-qubit and two-qubit gates. Let's imagine you have a 16-qubit quantum processor. The qubits are placed in a four-by-four array in two dimensions. One-qubit gates could make up the first three rows (from top to bottom). Two-qubit gates may be seen on the last row.

The roles of processing are intricate. In traditional computing, you input a number, the computer calculates the function, and then outputs the result.

“If you have ‘n’ bits, you have 2n. That’s an exponentially large number of states, and you can only work on them one at a time. So, it’s exponential time or exponential in space,” in a video presentation, William Oliver, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), stated. “A quantum computer, on the other hand, can take those 2n different components and put them all into one superposition state simultaneously. And this is what underlies the exponential speed up that we see in a quantum computer.”

“In order to double the power of a quantum computer, you only have to add one qubit. It’s exponential. In order for a quantum computer to keep up with a classical computer in terms of Moore’s Law, they only have to add one qubit every 24 months,” Moor Insights & Strategy analyst Paul Smith-Goodson agreed.

In theory, everything works. Several key challenges are preventing quantum computing from reaching its full potential. First, noise causes qubits to lose their characteristics within 100 microseconds, according to IBM.

That is why qubits must function in extremely cold temperatures. “Qubits are extremely sensitive to their environment,” said FormFactor’s Leong. “Quieting down the qubit environment in a very cold or cryogenic environment is critical.”

Furthermore, noise introduces faults within the qubits. As a result, quantum computers need to be error-corrected. On top of that, quantum computers with thousands of qubits must be scaled up. It's a far cry from that figure.

“We need to make qubits better than we’re making them today. And that’s across the field,” said Intel’s Clarke. “To me, the biggest challenge is how you wire them up. Every qubit requires its own wire and its control box. That works well when you have 50 or 60 qubits. It doesn’t work well when you have a million of them.”

It's also crucial to produce high-yielding qubits. Metrology methods are being developed around the technology by Onto Innovation and others.

“Right now, we’ve conducted measurements on a few wafers or coupons,” senior vice president Kevin Heidrich said, at Onto. “The key behind most of the foundational technologies in quantum is utilizing the manufacturing technologies developed for classical computing. However, many are tweaking the devices, designs and integrations to enable quantum/qubit devices. The key engagements we have are around enabling precise and characterized devices to enable various forms of quantum computing such as photonic or spin qubits. Our focus is to provide metrology solutions to enable our development partners to best characterize their early devices, including things like precise sidewall control, materials thickness, and interface quality.”


Source: Physics Today- Scitation

Semiconductor Qubits

According to the Quantum Computing Report, there are now 98 groups working on quantum computers and/or qubits. Ion trap, neutral atoms, photonics, silicon spin, superconducting, and topological qubits are all being developed by companies. Each variety is distinct, with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. It's too soon to say which technology is more advanced.

“We really don’t know which technology is going to be the right technology to build a grand scheme fault tolerant machine. Companies have a five-year roadmap, leading to where they are going to have enough qubits to actually do something meaningful,” Smith-Goodson from Moor Insights & Strategy said. “(Regarding the installed base), IBM has a large number of machines. They have over 20 quantum computers and no one can match that. They have a large ecosystem built up around it. They have a lot of universities and companies that they’re working with.”

The most progress has been made so far with superconducting qubits. D-Wave has risen to prominence in this category thanks to its use of quantum annealing, a technology that solves optimization problems. A quantum annealing system, for example, searches for the best of many possible combinations if you have a problem with many combinations. At least in part, these talents have been demonstrated.

The majority of the activity is in the genuine quantum computer business, which uses supercomputing qubits. Many companies, including Google, IBM, Intel, MIT, Rigetti, USTC, and others, are creating products here.

Josephson junctions are used to construct superconducting qubits. A Josephson junction is made up of two superconducting metals placed between two thin insulating layers. Electrons pair together and tunnel through the connection when it's turned on.

IBM demonstrated a 3-qubit device in 2014. IBM now offers a quantum computer with 65 qubits for sale. According to the Quantum Computing Report, IBM led the industry in terms of overall qubit count in the superconducting area until recently. USTC now holds the unofficial record with 66 qubits. According to the Quantum Computing Report, IBM has 65 qubits, Google has 53, Intel has 49, and Rigetti has 32.

“Qubits and quantum processors are the central part of quantum hardware,” said IBM’s Chow. “To build a quantum computer or a quantum computing system, we will need not only quantum hardware, but also control electronics, classical computing units, and software that runs quantum computing programs.”

IBM offers Qiskit, an open-source quantum software development kit, in this regard. There goal is to have a broad developer community participation and establish a quantum ecosystem to provide quantum computers to people as critical tools in their research and business.

Systems with thousands of qubits will be required by the industry, but suppliers have a long way to go in this area. However, the results are still optimistic. Google's Sycamore 53-qubit processor completed a calculation in 200 seconds in 2019. According to Google, completing the identical operation would take a supercomputer 10,000 years.

The USTC of China then presented a paper on Zuchongzhi, a 66-qubit superconducting quantum processor, in June of 2021. USTC used 56 qubits in a calculation. It was 2 to 3 times faster than Google's 53-qubit processor at a task.

“We expect this large-scale, high-performance quantum processor could enable us to pursue valuable quantum applications beyond classical computers in the near future,” Jian-Wei Pan, a professor of USTC said, in a paper.

Other breakthroughs in superconducting qubits, aside from USTC's processor, Rigetti announced a multi-chip quantum processor that will enable an 80-qubit system by the end of the year. IBM will release Eagle, a 127-qubit quantum processor, by the end of the year. In 2022, IBM plans to release a 433-qubit CPU, followed by a 1,121-qubit device in 2023. Google discovered a method for lowering qubit error rates. By 2029, it also intends to construct a 1 million qubit CPU.

Another potential technique is ion trap qubits. Atoms are at the heart of the quantum processor with ion trap. According to IonQ, a technology developer, the atoms are trapped, and then lasers handle everything from initial preparation to final readout.

According to the Quantum Computing Report, IonQ leads with 32 qubits in ion trap, followed by AQT (24), Honeywell (10) and others.

Sandia National Laboratories is working on QSCOUT, a quantum computer testbed based on ion trap qubits, in terms of research and development. The QSCOUT system is a three-qubit system. Sandia intends to eventually increase the system to 32 qubits.

“Not only can users specify which gates (each circuit is made up of many gates) they want to apply and when, but they can also specify how the gate itself is implemented, as there are many ways to achieve the same result. These tools allow users to get into the weeds of the how the quantum computer works in practice to help us figure out the best way to build a better one,” said a physicist and the QSCOUT lead at Sandia.

“Since we are a testbed system, the code running on our machine is generated by users, who have lots of ideas of what they might like to run on a quantum computer, Thirty-two qubits are still small enough that it can be fully simulated on a classical computer, so the point is not to do something that a classical computer cannot do. The main reasons for building the smaller system are: 1) study how to map problems onto a quantum computer the best way for best performance on a future larger system (quantum chemistry, quantum system simulations), and 2) learn techniques for making a quantum computer run better that can be applied to a bigger machine.” Clark said.

Ion trap is experiencing a surge of interest, similar to the superconducting qubit industry. For example, Honeywell's quantum computing unit will be spun off and merged with Cambridge Quantum Computing. Honeywell also proved that quantum mistakes may be corrected in real time.

Customers of IonQ can buy access to its quantum computers using Google's cloud services.

Silicon Qubits

Source- CQC2T

Silicon spin qubits show promise as well. This technology is being developed by Leti, Intel, Imec, and others. According to the Quantum Computing Report, Intel appears to be in the lead with 26 qubits. Intel is working on a new way to make an electron transistor that can have spin up or spin down. "When you have two electrons close to each other, or two of these spin qubits, then you can start to perform operations," Intel's Clarke says.

“Intel’s spin qubits are a million times smaller than some of the other qubit technologies,” said Intel's Clarke. “We’re going to need 100,000 to 1 million of them. When I envision what a quantum chip will look like in the future, it will look similar to one of our processors.”

The spin qubits, or silicon spin, is a type of quantum computing. It uses the same processes and tools used in semiconductor fabs as well as some of the same materials. A lot of their innovation comes more from the materials that they're using rather than the patterning capability.

  • Horse Ridge II, a second-generation cryogenic control chip, was released by Intel. The technology integrates control functions for quantum computer operations into the cryogenic refrigerator, reducing the complexity of quantum system control wiring.

  • CEA-Leti has created an interposer that allows quantum computing devices to be integrated. Qubits and control chips are connected through the interposer.

  • In a 300mm integrated process, Imec developed uniform spin qubit devices with configurable coupling.

  • Cryoprobes have been created separately by Intel and FormFactor. At cryogenic temperatures, these systems characterize qubits.


Other than the Qubits there are photonics as well which uses the light particles is predicted to have a promising impact in the future. So it is uncertain which technology will rule the future era. But many big organizations and companies are counting on the Quantum Computing in the future. A more pressing concern is whether quantum computing can ever live up to its hype. Companies and countries, on the other hand, are placing significant bets on this technology. And, considering the progress made thus far, the present results and activity make it all worthwhile to keep an eye on.


To help their work, Newsmusk allows writers to use primary sources. White papers, government data, initial reporting, and interviews with industry experts are only a few examples. Where relevant, we also cite original research from other respected publishers.

Source- Semiconductor Engineering


1 Comment

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