China recently launched two cloud platforms designed to enable the general public to use its quantum machines.

One is a feature added to the country’s fastest quantum computer, Zuchongzhi 2. The new cloud platform was launched by the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) with support from Anhui-based QuantumCTek and BeijingZhongkeArclight QuantumSoftware Technology.

Stone carving at the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, inscribed “Kuafu chases the sun”. Photo: Wikipedia

The other was launched by the Beijing Academy of Quantum Information Sciences (BAQIS), a scientific research unit of the Beijing government. It is known as Quafu pronounced similar to Kuafu, mythological Chinese giant who tries to catch the Sun by running after it, eventually dies of dehydration and is transformed into a mountain ranger. For the Chinese, his story is one of courage and self-sacrifice.

Chinese scientists say these new cloud platforms can help researchers and students experience the computing power of quantum computers while furthering their own scientific research.

Fan Heng, a researcher at the Institute of Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), said the Quafu cloud system is connected to a BAQIS-based 136-qubit quantum computer, similar to the Zuchongzhi 2 but with more power. of calculation.

Heng said the system is also connected to two other 18- and 10-qubit quantum computers in BAQIS’s Huairou Research Department laboratory in Beijing. He said an 18-qubit quantum machine is sometimes preferred over those with higher computing power, which he says may be more error-prone.

China has missed the heyday of development in the traditional computing age, but quantum computers bring us new opportunities, Fan said. The development of quantum cloud platforms is a good starting point for China to build its quantum industry.

BAQIS said that Quafu will one day be able to compete with foreign counterparts. Currently, major quantum cloud service providers include IBM Q Experience, Google Quantum AI, Xanadu Quantum Cloud, and Microsoft’s Azure Quantum.

Superconducting quantum computers

There are three main types of quantum computers:

  • electron-based (superconductor),
  • atom-based (cold atom or trapped ion) e
  • based on photons

In December 2020, a USTC research team led by scientist Pan Jianwei launched Jiuzhang, a photon-based quantum computer that can operate at room temperature. It is said to be faster than Google’s Sycamore, a superconducting quantum computer that must operate at temperatures close to absolute zero.

Pan Jianwei. Photo: CCTV

In May 2021, Pan and his team launched the 66-qubitZuchongzhi 2, which also uses superconducting chips. While Zuchongzhi 2 is the fastest quantum computer in China, the fastest in the world is the 433-qubit Osprey released by IBM last November.

Zhu Xiaobo, a professor at USTC, said on May 31, his research team improved Zuchongzhi 2 by adding 110-qubit control interfaces coupled with a newly launched cloud system, allowing users to manipulate up to 176 qubits.

Zhu said the cloud platform aims to reach the global advanced level in key design indicators such as connectivity, fidelity and jamming time.

The Chinese public can use the cloud platform to experience simple imaging and quantum computer programming experiments, said Peng Chengzhi, deputy executive director of the project and president of QuantumCTek. The platform will be connected to more quantum computers in the future, he said.

About 40% of tech pundits believe electron-based quantum computers will be more likely to succeed in the next decade, while 35% believe they will be based on atoms and 26% based on photons, according to a survey by Arthur D Little , a management consultancy based in Brussels.

Quantum sanctions

Last October, the Biden administration announced its decision to block quantum computer parts and software exports to China.

In November 2021, the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) sanctioned 28 organizations from China, Russia, Pakistan, Japan and Singapore to prevent the hijacking of US technologies in China and Russia for military use.

Some Chinese media said that China cannot produce high-end traditional semiconductors due to US sanctions, but it can still produce superconductor chips. They said that China can surpass the West in quantum computing, just like “surpassing others in cornering in auto racing.

On February 1, Chinas Origin Quantum Computing Technology said it had delivered a 24-qubit quantum computer known as Benyuan Wuyuan. It reportedly uses self-developed superconducting chip technology.

Origin Quantum Computing Technology Co launched a 24-qubit quantum computer called Benyuan Wuyuan in 2021. Photo: originqc.com.cn

However, some Chinese commentators think it will be difficult for China to get around US curbs.

A Hunan computer columnist says in an article that China has not yet made great progress in developing its indigenous electron beam lithography, an essential tool for manufacturing superconducting chips.

He says that while China can produce some superconducting chips, it still needs to import foreign liquid helium-diluted refrigerators to keep its chips at temperatures at or below absolute zero. He says Chinese dilution refrigerators are no match for foreign ones.

Bluefors Oy in Finland, Oxford Instruments NanoScience in the UK and JanisULT in the US are the top three suppliers of dilution refrigerators with a combined global market share of 70%, media reported.

Read: China accelerates in quantum computing race

Read: Growing specter of a quantum computing arms race

Follow Jeff Pao on Twitter at @jeffpao3


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