China Enters the Quantum Supremacy Race with Photonic Computer

December 8, 2020

A research team from China built a photonic quantum computer that they claim demonstrates quantum supremacy.

Ok, let’s unpack that for you so it actually makes sense.

What is a quantum computer?
Classical computers store information in bits, 1 or 0.  A quantum computer is based on the principles of quantum mechanics, which explains the behavior of energy and material on the atomic and subatomic levels.  It stores information in units called qubits.

Quantum computers can solve algorithmic problems that would take a normal computer an impractical amount of time (like a thousand years) to solve.

Jiuzhang in the house

The Chinese computer, named Jiuzhang, reportedly conducted a calculation in 200 seconds that would take a regular supercomputer a staggering 2.5 billion years to complete, according to the paper submitted by the team in the journal Science.

We recently wrote about Honeywell’s entry into the Game of “Quantum Computing” Thrones and how it may give Google a ride for its money.  You can check out the article here.

Battle Royale:  Jiuzhang v. Google
Google claimed quantum supremacy last year when it announced that its 54-qubit Sycamore processor was able to perform a calculation in 200 seconds that would have taken the world’s most powerful supercomputer 10,000 years.  It published the results of its research in the scientific journal Nature showing how its computer outperformed an IBM quantum computer.

Ice rays v. laser beams?  Ok just kidding, kind of ­– the two computers work on different principles. Google built quantum circuits using supercold, superconducting metal, while Chinese used photons, particles of light.

If you really want to geek out on the tech…
Our friends at Phys.org explained it best

“Boson sampling is a means for calculating the output of a straight-line optical circuit that has multiple inputs and outputs. It is carried out by constructing a machine in which photons are sent into a circuit in parallel, and once inside, are split by beam splitters. The split photons continue through the circuit, encountering mirrors and other beam splitters. Notably, if two photons happen to encounter the same splitter simultaneously, both unsplit photons will follow one of the paths away from the splitter. The process is repeated, resulting in a distribution of numbers that represent the network output. Conventional computers become bogged down."

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