Quantum computing gets a hardware boost with the spin glass breakthrough

Businesses can take advantage of D-Wave’s recently released optimization enhancement through a hardware sharing cloud service.

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One of the challenges of quantum computing is to overcome the limitations of 3D spin-glass optimization, which can slow down quantum simulation intended to solve real-world optimization problems. One experimental solution is the D-Waves Advantage quantum computer, which performs spin-glass dynamics (essentially a sequence of magnets) on 5,000 qubits.

According to a study by scientists at D-Wave and Boston University published in the journal Nature, the team validated that quantum annealing, a mathematical process used to find low-energy states using quantum fluctuations, can improve solution quality more faster than classical algorithms, at least theoretically. It could be a major breakthrough in showing ways a quantum processor can compute coherent quantum dynamics in large-scale optimization problems.

D-Wave customers who subscribe to the Leap quantum cloud service can access the new commercial-grade annealing-based quantum computer starting April 19.

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What quantum annealing improvements mean for business

The main benefit for companies is that spin-glass computation on a quantum annealing device may eventually be able to solve optimization problems efficiently, achieving a goal with the least amount of energy possible. For example, it might be a relatively efficient way to answer questions like Should I ship this package in this truck or the next? or the traveling salesman problem (What is the most efficient route a traveling salesman should take to visit different cities?), as D-Wave wrote.

D-Wave is one of the few companies offering enterprise quantum computing space with gated and annealing programs, which now includes its commercial-grade 5,000-qubit Advantage quantum computer. There’s still some question about how practical this technology is, but the new paper is proof that further commercial optimization of quantum computing can be done on D-Waves hardware.

SEE: Should IT teams factor quantum computing into their decisions?

New developments in D-Waves quantum computing

Delving into physics, spin goggles are often used as testbeds for paradigm computation, the researchers said, but using this approach in a system that is programmable and therefore can be used to perform practical computations still leads to potential problems. D-Wave solved this problem on its hardware by using quantum-critical spin-glass dynamics on thousands of qubits with a superconducting quantum annealing.

The same hardware that has already provided a useful experimental testing ground for critical quantum dynamics can also be used to search for low-energy states that help find solutions to optimization problems, said Wojciech Zurek, a theoretical physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and highest authority in the field of quantum theory, in the D-Waves press release.

Reach low energy states faster

Applications that solve optimization problems such as the packaging shipping question above require a minimum energy state from the quantum annealing processors they run on. Other computations that could be used for decision making, such as probability sampling problems, require good low-energy samples to work.

D-Wave claims that spin glasses can be brought into low-energy states faster by quantum fluctuation annealing than by conventional thermal annealing.

This paper provides evidence that quantum dynamics of a dedicated hardware platform is faster than known classical algorithms for finding the preferred and lowest energy state of a spin glass, and thus promises to continue to fuel further annealing development quantum physics to address practical problems, said Gabriel Aeppli, professor of physics at ETH Zrich and EPF Lausanne, and head of the Photon Science Division at the Paul Scherrer Institut.

Maintain qubit consistency

Another problem that researchers in the world of quantum computing are trying to solve is the coherence of qubits. In a simplified sense, coherence means that a quantum state retains certain physical qualities while in use. Research shows that quantum coherent annealing can improve solution quality faster than classical algorithms.

Hand-in-hand development of gate and annealing programs will lead us to longer coherence times and better qubit parameters, allowing our lead over classical optimization to grow, wrote Andrew King, director of performance research for D-Wave, in a blog post.

Looking ahead: D-Waves Advantage2 system

While the newly published research was conducted on the currently commercially available Advantage quantum computer, D-Wave is also working on its next iteration. The Advantage2 system is in the experimental prototype stage and will be D-Waves’ sixth generation quantum computing hardware. D-Wave expects the entire Advantage2 system to launch with 7,000 qubits and does not have an expected alpha release date.

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