Google’s quantum department reckons it’s found a way to significantly reduce the number of errors made by quantum computers as it prepares for the future of computation.
Quantum computing is valued for its ability to make calculations that traditional computers wouldn’t typically be able to make, resulting in incredibly powerful machines. The trade-off, though, is a high rate of errors that renders many calculations unreliable.
Google says that the error rate of the quantum bits in its third-generation Sycamore processor typically sits between 1 in 10,000 and 1 in 100.
Google’s quantum computing breakthrough
According to VP of Engineering Hartmut Neven and Director of Quantum Hardware Julian Kelly, the industry will need rates in the range of 1 in 10,000,000,000 to 1 in 10,000,000 to run quantum circuits that can solve industrially relevant problems.
The blog (opens in new tab) post explains: “Under the right conditions, the more physical qubits used to build a logical qubit, the better that logical qubit becomes.” This is only true if the benefits of quantum error correction outweigh the added errors from each additional physical qubit.
The Google Quantum AI Team managed a first-ever for any quantum computing platform and produced an error-correcting code called a surface code.
The process involves repetition so that any errors that occur, such as flipped bits, can be ruled out by what the researchers describe as a majority vote.
This is just part of the company’s projected pathway that involves six steps, finally culminating in error-corrected quantum computing. The company has recently entered the second stage of its roadmap to produce a logical qubit prototype and hopes to make a long-lived logical qubit beyond 2025.
Despite what the company sees as a huge breakthrough, we’re likely several years (or even decades) away from error-free quantum computing, and it’s clear that there’s a long journey ahead.
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