Chinese Scientists Begin Climb Toward Universal Quantum Computer

China Quantum Research Team
Chaoyang Lu (left) and Pan Jianwei pictured in their lab. (Courtesy: University of Science and Technology of China)

Chinese media are reporting that the scientists behind the light-based quantum computer that set a record for quantum supremacy in a certain task are now preparing to develop a universal quantum computer — although they admit it is an enormous scientific task and one that requires some expectation setting.

In the Global Times, the research team said establishing quantum supremacy — the point at which quantum computers vastly outperform classical supercomputers — is just the first step. The researchers estimated it would take more than a decade to build universal quantum computers, which would be a more useful version of these QC prototypes.

“[We] expect to build a universal quantum computer through 15-20 years of effort to solve such widely used problems as cryptography analysis, weather forecasting and drug design,” the People’s Daily quoted Pan Jienwei as saying this week.

Chinese quantum physicists Pan and Lu Chaoyang led the team that built the quantum computer, dubbed Jiuzhang. On Dec. 4, Jianwei and Chaoyang’s research team reported in the journal Science that its quantum computer is 100 trillion times faster than the most powerful classical supercomputer of today. In certain calculations, the device is about 10 billion times faster than Sycamore, the Google quantum computer that first reported quantum supremacy.

Future universal quantum computers are expected to bring revolutionary innovations in various industries including chemistry and medicine that closely relate to people’s lives, Chaoyang told the newspaper. He is also a professor at the University of Science and Technology of China in East China’s Anhui Province.

He added that it is difficult to predict how long it will take for quantum computing to enter and benefit our daily lives, as quantum computers are still in the early stages of development both at home and internationally.

“We are still at the foot of mountain,” he told the Global Times.

Chaoyang also said that climbing that mountain toward a universal quantum computer isn’t a race between nations, but an international effort.

“Building a quantum computer is a race between humans and nature, not between countries,” he was quoted in the China Daily.

Matt Swayne
Matt Swayne
Matt Swayne is a contributor at The Quantum Daily. He focuses on breaking news about quantum discoveries and quantum computing. Matt enjoys working on -- and with -- startups and is currently working on a media studies master's degree, specializing in science communication.

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