China is now the third country worldwide to have built and delivered quantum computers after Canada and the United States first shipped theirs in 2011 and 2019, respectively.
Origin Quantum Computing Technology Co, established in Hefei in 2017, says it has delivered a 24-qubit quantum computer – known as Benyuan Wuyuan – that reportedly uses self-developed superconducting chip technology.
The company says it will launch a faster quantum computer called Wukong, the name of the Monkey King in Chinese mythology, later this year.
The announcement has prompted IT columnists and observers to speculate on China’s chances of catching up with the USA in the race to lead the quantum computing revolution.
The consensus seems to be that China is four to five years behind the USA in the quantum computer industry – but could in the decades ahead take the lead as the high-tech competition evolves.
In 2011, Canadian firm D-Wave Systems released the world’s first commercial quantum computer – called D-Wave One. Equipped with a 128-qubit chip-set, the computer was priced at US$10 million. In 2019, IBM unveiled its Q System One, a 20-qubit machine.
In connection with the announcement, Guo Guoping looked into the future and predicted that within the next three to five years quantum computing will be put to practical use in people’s lives and production.
He said a complicated calculation that would take a month for 10 supercomputers to complete could be done in three to seven days with assistance from a quantum computer.
Zhang Hui, general manager of Origin Quantum, said that although the company has delivered a quantum computer for the first time, it will have to achieve many more technological breakthroughs to increase its computing speed.
Zhang said a quantum computer will have commercial value only if its speed reaches 50 to 100 qubit. Since last year, he said, the company has started to explore the applications of quantum computing in the finance, biomedical and artificial intelligence sectors.
Some scientists have pointed out that a 30-qubit quantum computer has computing power equivalent to that of a supercomputer with a speed of 1 teraflop (a trillion floating point operations p/s) while a 50-qubit quantum computer is faster than a supercomputer when doing certain tasks.
In recent years, Tencent, Alibaba, Baidu and Huawei have been investing in quantum computing while major US players in the sector include Google, Microsoft and Intel.
In May 2021, a University of Science and Technology of China research team led by scientist Pan Jianwei launched Zuchongzhi 2, a superconducting quantum computer that needs to work at a temperature close to absolute zero.
But then IBM’s Eagle surpassed Zuchongzhi 2 to become the world’s fastest superconducting quantum machine.
Asia Times / ABC Flash Point News 2023.
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