China has just completed building two new supercomputers with performance speeds that outstrip Google’s Sycamore – and that’s not even close.
The pair of superconducting quantum computers perform sets of functions nearly instantaneously, whereas desktop computers would need around 30 trillion years to do the same.
News of the significant technological success was broadcast by state-media firm, CCTV, in late October. The research literature, which has been peer-reviewed, was published in both the Science Bulletin and Physical Review Letters journals.
The Zuchongzhi 2 supercomputer is reportedly capable of performing tasks millions of times faster than the 55-qubit Sycamore system launched just two years ago, according to physicist and co-lead author, Pan Jianwei.
Named after a 5th-century mathematician, the 66-qubit supercomputer outperforms its closest challengers by factors of millions, according to South China Morning Post.
Meanwhile, the new Jiuzhang 2 quantum supercomputer, named after an ancient mathematics textbook, uses qubit-loaded photons to reach calculation speeds 100 sextillions (100 000 000 000 000 000 000 000) times faster than some of the beefiest standard computers.
According to Jianwei and his research team, the Jiuzhang 2 supercomputer has a narrower field of applications because of its novel design. Boson sampling is an area where Jiuzhang 2 may find practical application. The process involves stimulating the mechanics of light as it passes through crystals and other mirrored objects.
Zuchonghzi 2 may see use in areas like predicting stock movement, calculating genetic mutations, creating new substances and hypersonic flight development. To achieve such rapid computing times, Zuchongzhi 2’s circuitry must be kept incredibly cold.
The frigid temperatures also allow the computer to perform complicated tasks known as ‘random walks’. In essence, a random walk is a mathematical object that assumes that any given sequence of steps occurs without the influence of outside actors.
The complex model assumes that each movement on a chessboard exists without any association to a previous or next ‘step’. Random walks were notoriously difficult to simulate on prior technology but made easy by quantum computers. Zuchonghzi 2 can theoretically calculate 66 random walks on chessboards at the same time, according to South China Morning Post.
However, it may be a few years before the high-powered computers become standardised. The fragile quantum supercomputers only function in highly-specialised conditions in short bursts and are prone to mistakes, something Jianwei and his team are working on.
In about five years, the team from the University of Science and Technology in Hefei hope to iron out existing flaws and achieve quantum error correction.