D-Wave unveils name of next-gen quantum system (with weapons lab as customer)

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A team member at D-Wave Systems, based in Burnaby, B.C.,, works on the dilution refrigerator system that cools the processors in the company’s quantum computer. (D-Wave Systems Photo / Larry Goldstein)

D-Wave Systems says its next-generation, 5,000-qubit quantum computing system will be called Advantage, to recognize the business advantage it hopes its customers will derive from the company’s products and services.

The Burnaby, B.C.-based company also announced that Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico has signed a contract to upgrade to Advantage on its premises once it’s ready to go. Advantage-based computing is due to become available via D-Wave’s Leap quantum cloud service in mid-2020.

“This is the third time we will have upgraded our D-Wave system,” Irene Qualters, associate lab director for simulation and computation at Los Alamos, said today in a news release. “Each upgrade has enabled new research into developing quantum algorithms and new tools in support of Los Alamos’ national security mission.”

The lab’s national security mission includes keeping the nation’s nuclear weapons up to date — and checking their safety and potency using methods that include computer simulations.

Los Alamos and its collaborators already have built more than 60 early quantum applications, and Advantage is expected to fuel the development of more apps.

“Quantum computing is only as valuable as the applications customers can run,” said Alan Baratz, chief product officer at D-Wave. “With the Advantage quantum system, we are building the first-ever quantum computer designed to deliver business benefit.”

Today’s announcements came during D-Wave’s semiannual users’ conference, Qubits, which is taking place this week in Newport, R.I. In addition to Los Alamos National Laboratory, the attendees include GE Research, Accenture, Booz Allen Hamilton, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, SAIC and Oki Electric Industry Co. Ltd.

Quantum computing takes advantage of the weird properties of quantum mechanics — in which bits of information need not represent definite ones or zeroes, but can hold multiple values simultaneously until the results of the computation are read out.

Theoretically, quantum-based techniques can solve certain classes of computational problems, ranging from data encryption to molecular interactions, far faster than classical computing techniques.

D-Wave’s systems are not yet powerful enough to be considered universal quantum computers. Rather, they are more accurately called quantum annealers, which can produce “good enough” answers to problems that have many potential solutions.

Last year, D-Wave researchers published a study in the journal Nature showing that their 2000Q machine is well-suited for simulating a quantum phenomenon associated with superconducting material. And in connection with this week’s conference, D-Wave published two white papers describing improvements in the performance of the low-noise 2000Q processor.

D-Wave’s U.S. operations are based in Bellevue, Wash., and Palo Alto, Calif.

IBM, Microsoft, Google and other companies are working on competing approaches to quantum computing. Several advances in the field have been reported in the past couple of weeks. Here’s a sampling:

  • In a research paper that briefly popped up online, long enough to be snagged by The Financial Times, computer scientists at Google and NASA’s Ames Research Center claimed that they have built the first quantum computer that can perform a calculation far beyond the reach of even the most powerful classical computer. The quantum computing chip, code-named Sycamore, could reportedly run complex calculations proving that the figures produced by a random number generator were truly random. Some outside researchers hailed the limited demonstration as a milestone. But others said the claims in Google’s paper, titled “Quantum Supremacy Using a Programmable Superconducting Processor,” were “just plain wrong.”
  • Researchers based in Austria and Switzerland report that they were able to bring hot, complex molecules composed of nearly 2,000 atoms into a state of superposition and produce quantum interference. In a study published by Nature Physics, the researchers say these are “by far the heaviest objects shown to exhibit matter-wave interference to date.”
  • In a study published by Nature Communications, researchers at the University of Buffalo report that they can manipulate the electronic properties of two-dimensional tungsten disulfide in ways that could be useful for encoding quantum data. Such experiments could open up a new frontier for quantum computing hardware.





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