Australia’s Commonwealth Bank announced that it has developed a quantum computer simulator. This will help develop applications across a variety of industries rather than wait for the hardware to become available.
Applications for a large, complex bank like CBA start with so-called Monte Carlo simulations, where the impact of risk is assessed on the full range of scenarios under consideration. Under classical computing, it takes about a day to work out the risk position of the bank.
Quantum computing would deliver the same outcome in a matter of minutes, enabling more dynamic decision-making as a result of real-time data feeds.
Trading positions could be known in real time, with investment strategies chosen after consideration of millions of different scenarios. Beyond such base-level applications, the potential is mostly unknown because problem-solving in business is constrained by the limits of classical computing.
As molecules go, beryllium hydride is puny—just two hydrogen atoms tacked onto a single beryllium atom. But, for the moment, it’s a heavyweight champ: It’s now the largest molecule ever modeled on a quantum computer, an emerging technology that might someday solve problems that stymie ordinary computers. The advance, though still in the realm of what ordinary computers can do, could provide a stepping stone toward a powerful new way to discover new drugs and materials.
“I think it’s very, very promising,” says Marco De Vivo, a theoretical chemist at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa, who studies how pharmaceuticals interact with proteins. “They’re pushing the boundaries of what computation today means.”
Physicists and chemists routinely use computers to simulate how atoms and molecules behave. Such simulations require massive amounts of computing power, because interactions between three or more interacting particles quickly become devilishly complex. On top of that, the electrons inside molecules obey the strange laws of quantum mechanics—the theory of the very small—meaning, for example, that it’s impossible to simultaneously pin down an electron’s position and speed. This makes it even harder to calculate the distribution of these electrons within a molecule. Even today’s most powerful supercomputers can simulate molecules only up to a few hundred atoms.
But scientists believe that quantum computers are on track to overtake their classical cousins. As far back as 1981, the Nobel Prize–winning physicist Richard Feynman predicted that computers based on quantum mechanics could simulate large molecules exactly. Whereas an ordinary computer uses bits that can be set to 0 or 1, a quantum computer employs “qubits” that can be set to 0, 1, or 0 and 1 at the same time. These qubits can then be linked together to create a powerful quantum processor, which, in theory, should be able to simulate a molecule far more efficiently than a conventional computer. Many scientists think that revealing new drugs and materials will be the first killer application of future quantum computers, which are being feverishly developed at universities and companies around the world.
IBM’s quantum computing researchers have now raised the bar. The scientists used up to six qubits made of specialized metals called superconductors, which can carry different levels of electric current simultaneously, to analyze hydrogen, lithium hydride, and beryllium hydride (BeH2) molecules. First, they encoded each molecule’s electron arrangement onto the quantum computer. They then used a specialized algorithm to nudge the simulated molecule into lower-energy states, which they measured and encoded onto a conventional computer. They repeated the process until the quantum computer found the molecule’s lowest energy state—an important step in many chemistry applications.
Because of errors that inevitably creep into quantum calculations, the results are not perfectly accurate, the researchers note. But the demonstration could help chemists better understand known molecules and discover new ones, says Jerry Chow, a physicist in Yorktown Heights, New York, who leads IBM’s quantum computing effort. “We want to make quantum computing something which can extend outside the realm of just simply physics.”
The accomplishment “represents solid progress towards an incredibly important goal” of predicting new molecules’ properties, writes Ryan Babbush, the researcher who led Google’s hydrogen simulation, in an email.
For practical purposes, however, BeH2 is still a tiny molecule. New pharmaceutical compounds, for example, typically contain 50 to 80 atoms. And the cellular proteins with which such drugs interact—and that scientists must also simulate to understand how a potential drug will work—can contain thousands of atoms, De Vivo says. “From what they are [doing] to what can have a real impact on what I’m doing, there is a long way to go,” he says. “It’s like the first day we see a plane flying, and we want to go to the moon.”
Universities and banks are collaborating in anticipation of the quantum computer becoming reality. An estimated 20,000 jobs are opening up after investments of about $10B in investments the US, China, and Japan.
From The Australian: In July, Microsoft and the University of Sydney announced a multi-year partnership to move quantum machines from research into real-world engineering. In April, the Commonwealth Bank revealed it had developed a quantum computer “simulator” to give Australians “a head start on the massive step change in computing power promised by quantum processing”.
Professor Andrea Morella from the University of New South Wales (Sydney) said they launched Silicon Quantum Computing — described as Australia’s first quantum computing company — to scale up its silicon-based research. The move followed an $83 million research deal involving the university, the state and federal governments, Commonwealth Bank and Telstra. “There are more jobs than people, not just in Australia but worldwide,” he said.
Companies usually have to make do with conventional electrical or microwave engineers, training them on the job in quantum science. “Or (companies will) find a quantum physicist and try and teach them microwave engineering and electronic design. There are only a handful of people with the full range of skills, and those people are very valued on the market,” he said.
With the theoretical advancements in quantum theory becoming closer to reality, companies are starting to staff up on quantum minds. Currently there is a need for about 20,000 specialists across the US, China, and Japan. To fill this void, universities are beginning to offer courses in quantum technology.
From The Australian: In July (2017), Microsoft and the University of Sydney announced a multi-year partnership to move quantum machines from research into real-world engineering. In April, the Commonwealth Bank (of Australia) revealed it had developed a quantum computer “simulator” to give Australians “a head start on the massive step change in computing power promised by quantum processing”.
Professor Morello of University of New South Wales (Sydney) created classes Fundamentals of Quantum Engineering and Quantum Devices and Computers for his third- and fourth-year students.
University of Syndey’s Pip Pattison said “We expect to make quantum engineering part of our formal curriculum offering in the near future.”
With traditional Qubits, the distance causes machines to grow large. For smaller machines (tens or dozens of qubits) this is not a problem. But the goal is to create machines with thousands of qubits – so the machines would grow unweildy.
The Australians have created a quantum “flip-flop” that is triggered by electrons rather than magnetism. Magnets take up more space and electronic quantum entanglement can be maintained over a longer distance.
The electronic quantum flip-flop is still a hypothetical design so there are no extant devices. Research continues.
This article originally appeared in Edgy Labs blog.
An international research team successfully created and tested a record-breaking quantum supercomputer. Running on 51 qubits, the new machine surpasses the theoretical threshold of quantum supremacy.
Like “Schrödinger’s cat”, qubits, or quantum bits, are undecided and can be in two positions simultaneously. In other words, if traditional computers have “bits” that can take the value of 1 or 0 at a time, “qubits” can be either at the same time.
Hence the edge quantum computing has over classical computing in solving very complex calculations much faster.
The Quantum Supremacy Threshold
Qubits allow the development of new computational algorithms, which are much more productive than silicon-based iterations.
The more qubits a quantum computer uses, the more processing power it has.
But most advanced quantum computational systems available today are still far behind supercomputers in terms of their practical applications–although the situation is changing very fast indeed.
There’s a theoretical threshold after which quantum computers would surpass most powerful classical supercomputers. Scientists believe it should happen somewhere around 50 qubits.
Google also is no stranger to the quantum race, as it’s working on a 49-qubit 14-meter machine using superconducting circuits.
51 “Cold Atoms” to Make the World’s Most Advanced Quantum Computer
Google’s 49 qubit computer was supposed to be the highlight of the ICQT 2017 (The International Conference on Quantum Technologies, held July 12th–16th in Moscow).
Designed by John Martinis, a professor at University of California at Santa Barbara, Google’s computer will use a chip embedded with 49 qubits (0.6 cm by 0.6 cm).
But as groundbreaking Google’s machine might be, it was another machine that stole the show.
During the same day of the ICQT 2017 that Martinis was supposed to give a lecture about his quantum device, Mikhail Lukin, the co-founder of RQC, made his own announcement.
Mikhail’s team, including Russian and American scientists, have built the world’s most powerful functional quantum computing system, running on 51 qubits.
The new quantum system uses an array of 51 “cold atoms” in lieu of qubits. Locked up on “laser cells”, these atoms should be kept at extremely low temperatures.
“… we observe a novel type of robust many-body dynamics corresponding to persistent oscillations of crystalline order after a sudden quantum quench,” said researchers in a paper available at arXiv.org. “These observations enable new approaches for exploring many-body phenomena and open the door for realizations of novel quantum algorithms.”
The model was successfully tested in the labs of Harvard University, solving physics problems that silicon chip-based supercomputers would have a hard time replicating.