Chinese researchers have announced a major milestone in the development of photonics quantum computing, unveiling their latest quantum computer prototype ‘Jiuzhang 3.0’ with 255 detected photons. This massive increase in qubit count enables the photonic system to solve certain sampling problems over 10 quadrillion times faster than the world’s top supercomputers.
The breakthrough was achieved by the renowned quantum physics team led by Professor Pan Jianwei at the University of Science and Technology of China. Publishing their results on October 12th 2022 in Physical Review Letters, the researchers demonstrated a quantum computational advantage on Gaussian boson sampling problems using Jiuzhang 3.0.
By harnessing 255 quantum data units through sophisticated photon control and measurement, Jiuzhang 3.0 obtains solutions to complex sampling challenges orders of magnitude faster than classical machines, spotlighting quantum computing’s immense latent potential.
Pushing Boundaries of Photonics Quantum Computing
Professor Pan Jianwei’s group has pioneered photonics quantum research and hardware in China for over a decade. Photonic systems encode quantum information by generating and manipulating streams of single photons. Photons present key advantages as quantum bits or ‘qubits’ including room-temperature stability and low noise.
The team’s previous quantum computer Jiuzhang 2.0, unveiled in 2021, enabled 113 detected photons – the highest qubit photonics machine then. Jiuzhang 3.0 makes a monumental leap to 255 detected photons, demonstrating rapid scaling.
This was realized through multiple hardware optimizations in Jiuzhang 3.0 like superconducting nanowire detectors and time-bin photon multiplexing. Lead researcher Professor Lu Chaoyang says these innovations greatly enhanced the system’s complexity.
By precisely controlling ever larger numbers of photonic qubits and their interactions, the researchers were able to perform increasingly complex quantum sampling problems intractable for supercomputers. Quantum sampling provides a way to benchmark quantum advantages over classical machines.
Million-Fold Speedup Over Prior Photonic Platform
The particular sampling problem assessed was Gaussian Boson Sampling, where photons in specified quantum states are fed into a large interferometer. Modelling the photons’ scattering probabilities from the interactions proves highly complex classically but efficiently solvable quantumly.
Remarkably, with over double the qubits of its predecessor, Jiuzhang 3.0 achieves computational speeds for Gaussian Boson Sampling over a million times faster than Jiuzhang 2.0. The largest simulation performed in just 1 microsecond would consume a state-of-the-art supercomputer for 20 billion years!
This staggering speedup demonstrates the superexponential scaling advantage of quantum systems over classical ones. By harnessing algorithmic techniques like photon time-bin multiplexing alongside hardware advances, Professor Pan’s team realized transformative photonics quantum computational power.
China’s Quantum Leadership Across Two Technical Routes
With Jiuzhang 3.0’s breakthrough, China has now decisively achieved quantum advantage in two leading quantum computing routes – photonics and superconducting circuits.
In 2021 alongside unveiling Jiuzhang 2.0, Professor Pan’s team also introduced China’s most advanced 66-qubit superconducting quantum computer Zuchongzhi 2.1. Jiuzhang 3.0 and Zuchongzhi 2.1 prove China’s comprehensive capabilities in developing quantum technologies.
The researchers emphasize that establishing true quantum advantage will involve ongoing competition between classical algorithms and quantum hardware. Jiuzhang 3.0’s benchmarks provide motivation to advance both further.
Quantum Milestones Herald Computing Revolution
As quantum systems like Jiuzhang 3.0 begin demonstrably defeating supercomputers, it signals the gradual quantum revolution in computing power anticipated for decades is nearing. While universal fault-tolerant quantum computers remain longer-term, noisy intermediate-scale quantum (NISQ) machines are manifesting advantages.
China’s professed goal is to achieve broadly applicable quantum advantage within a decade. With progress rapidly accelerating, quantum technologies may profoundly disrupt industries like finance, pharmaceuticals, energy and beyond as imagined applications become practical.
Quantum computing shifts computation to the strange microscopic realm of quanta, unlocking new paradigms. Pioneering teams worldwide like Professor Pan’s propel persistent engineering ahead to harness this new quantum future. With each qubit added, we uncover a little more of quantum’s immense latent potential.