Scientists in China claim to have built a quantum computing system capable of performing a calculation that classical computers practically cannot.

The system is able to perform certain computations nearly 100 trillion times faster than the world’s fastest supercomputer, Japan's Fugaku.

Google said that it had achieved quantum supremacy for a different single, highly technical calculation back in September 2019. Both approaches are still years away from besting conventional supercomputers on practical workloads.

Another step forward

Quantum Computing
– Sebastian Moss

The 53-qubit 'Jiuzhang' processor can detect up to 76 photons through Gaussian boson sampling in three minutes, something that would have taken 10,000 years on the 442 petaflops Fugaku system. On China's most powerful supercomputer, the 93 petaflops Sunway TaihuLight, it would have taken more than 2bn years.

The Chinese system records its results by manipulating photons, while Google's quantum circuits use supercold, superconducting metals. The researchers claim their system is 10bn times faster than Google's Sycamore machine, although that has not been independently verified, and each system is designed to run different workloads.

"Quantum computational advantage is like a threshold," said Lu Chaoyang, professor of the University of Science and Technology of China.

"It means that, when a new quantum computer prototype's capacity surpasses that of the strongest traditional computer in handling a particular task, it proves that it will possibly make breakthroughs in multiple other areas."