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How Close Are We, Really, to Building a Quantum Computer?


Intel has created 49- and 17-qubit (shown here) superconducting test chips for quantum computing.

The goal of quantum computing "is to keep [quantum bits/qubits] spinning in the superposition of multiple states for a long time," says Intel Labs' Jim Clarke.

Credit: Intel Corporation

In an interview, Intel Labs' Jim Clarke notes the race to develop the first practical quantum computer is fraught with challenges.

"The goal with quantum computing is to keep [quantum bits/qubits] spinning in the superposition of multiple states for a long time," he says.

There are currently at least six or seven distinct qubit types, their performance shaped by how they are manipulated and induced to communicate with each other. Varieties of qubits currently considered for use in quantum computing include superconducting systems and trapped ion systems, but Clarke says Intel is exploring a third variety called silicon spin qubits, which resemble a conventional silicon transistor but use one electron whose spin in controlled by microwave pulses.

He thinks spin qubits offer an easier path toward scalability, since they are 1 million times smaller than superconducting systems.

"Until we have physical systems that are a few hundred to a thousand qubits...it's unclear exactly what types of software or applications that we'll be able to run," says Clarke.

From Scientific American
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