October 11, 2019

Researchers build first prototype quantum computer using superconducting materials

By Luke Christou

Scientists from The National University of Science and Technology (MISIS) have launched the first prototype quantum computer that uses superconducting materials to overcome key issues holding the development of quantum computers back.

MISIS has been working on a two-qubit quantum computer within the Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects’ framework since 2016, led by Valery Ryazanov, chief researcher of the Laboratory for Superconducting Metamaterials.

Unlike traditional computers, which make use of transistors which can only have a state of zero or one, quantum computers make use of quantum particles that can exist in multiple states between zero and one. This allows quantum computers to process information in a fraction of the time than traditional computers can.

Read more: What is quantum computing and why does it matter to business?

Superconducting quantum computer overcomes key challenges

Other attempts to build a quantum computer have relied on atoms and ions to store qubits (a unit of computation). However, atoms are prone to losing qubits due to their size, while ions are only able to order qubits linearly.

MISIS has developed its quantum computer prototype using superconducting materials, which allowed it to create a “more advanced system than its counterparts”. By using aluminium to create qubits with a size of 300 microns, there is no risk of loss and it is also possible to order them non-linearly.

The prototype was able to solve Grover’s quantum algorithm, an algorithm used to find a particular value, exceeding the past accuracy record by 3%.

The specific question is “For what value of x does f(x)=k , for some number k?”. Quantum computers, given their ability to be both one and zero, should be able to find the correct value in one call to the function f (x) 100% of the time.

“Grover’s two-qubit algorithm is a very important step towards creating a quantum computer,” Ilya Besendin, a researcher involved in the study from the Laboratory for Superconducting Metamaterials, said.

“We are not the first in the world to demonstrate its solution, but here we are talking primarily about technological achievement. We have shown the possibility of implementing all the necessary logical operations for a universal quantum processor: initialization, single-qubit and two-qubit operations, and reading, and with an innacuracy level satisfactory for small algorithms.”

Scientists recently found a superconductor material that could prove vital to the development of quantum computers. Uranium ditelluride, first developed in the 1970, has a strong resistance to magnetic fields, which is rare for the material type. This means that qubits are less likely to lose quantum coherence, which would in turn reduce errors that are commonplace in current quantum computers.

Read more: Preparing for quantum computing’s devastating impact on cybersecurity