Microsoft Claims Breakthrough in Quantum Computing Reliability

A new paper details Microsoft's recent progress in quantum computing -- specifically, its development of a system that is both significantly less prone to errors and better at correcting them.

The milestone, a joint effort between Microsoft and quantum computing firm Quantinuum, brings Microsoft closer to its goal of building a "hybrid supercomputing system," one that uses both quantum and classical computing strategies, that can help researchers, scientists, academics and industry solve "meaningful problems" that would otherwise take years to untangle, according to Jason Zander, head of Strategic Missions and Technologies at Microsoft, in a blog post last week.

"When powered by 100 reliable logical qubits, a hybrid machine could potentially solve scientific problems that are unsolvable on classical machines," Zander wrote. "To make this potential a reality, scientific and engineering breakthroughs are required."

In a paper released earlier this month, Microsoft claims achieving one such breakthrough: a "qubit-virtualization system" with an 800x lower error rate than current benchmarks. This potentially opens the door for the creation of a more reliable and scalable quantum computer.

A quantum computer typically requires many qubits to be useful, but qubits are not error-proof. To build a computer with the sufficient number of qubits without ensuring those qubits are as error-resistant as possible would still result in unreliable data, all while being resource-inefficient. Microsoft's system addresses that problem. This is how Azure Quantum executives Dennis Tom and Krysta Svore explained it in a separate blot post:

With our qubit-virtualization system, we were able to create four highly reliable logical qubits from only 30 physical qubits of the available 32 on Quantinuum's machine. When entangled, these logical qubits exhibited a circuit error rate of 10 -5 or 0.00001, which means they would experience an error only once in every 100,000 runs. That is an 800x improvement over the circuit error rate of 8×10 -3 or 0.008, measured from entangled physical qubits. This result was achieved through a combination of advanced runtime error diagnostics with computational run rejection and error correction.

The new system also has the ability to identify and fix computation errors without destroying existing qubits, a process called "active syndrome extractions." This is notable because, as Tom and Svore said, such extractions enable "longer and more complex computation to proceed without failure, which is necessary to achieve fault-tolerant quantum computing."

Combined, argues Microsoft, these achievements mark an industrywide advancement from the first level of the quantum computing era (the experimental or "foundational" level) and into the second (the "reliable" implementation level). Level 2 is marked by the emergence of quantum computers "that are operated by reliable logical qubits."

Users of Microsoft's Azure Quantum Elements platform will be able to test out new capabilities enabled by these milestones in an upcoming private preview.

Together with Quantinuum, Microsoft's qubit-virtualization system was able to achieve 14,000 straight error-free calculations. For reference, Microsoft's ultimate goal of creating a hybrid supercomputer -- and of advancing the industry into Level 3 of quantum implementations -- would require it to achieve an error-to-calculation ratio that's less than one out of 100 million.

"At Level 3," Zander said, "we expect to be able to solve some of our most challenging problems, particularly in fields like chemistry and materials science." To get to Level 3, Microsoft is working on a technology called "topological qubits." More information on its research in this area is available here.

About the Author

Gladys Rama (@GladysRama3) is the editorial director of Converge360.


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