Quantum computing is entering an exciting new era with the emergence of photonic systems powered by “qumodes” rather than traditional qubits. Qumodes are the information carriers in harmonic oscillators like light and can enable faster quantum computations by harnessing many states.

In a research paper published this week, scientists at the University of Tokyo have created the first photonic quantum computer able to perform calculations and error correction using only a few qumodes. This is done by carefully manipulating laser pulses at the photonic level. Using this they achieve the same computing power as hundreds of qubits.

Photonic quantum computing has been developing for over 20 years, with increasing sophistication. When only last year, China introduced Jiuzhang 3.0, which reportedly solved a problem in a microsecond that would exhaust a classical computer. European startups like Quix Quantum are also advancing photonics hardware for quantum applications.

This latest advance is significant because it uses qumodes directly to achieve quantum digital computations, unlike previous photonic systems reliant on physical qubits. While discrete-variable quantum computers still dominate, this demonstrates the promise of alternative architectures.

By expanding beyond qubits into new information carriers like qumodes, quantum computing is set to achieve even greater capabilities. With proof-of-concept milestones like this photonic calculation and error correction, the prospects for fast, powerful quantum computation powered by light are brighter than ever.

The quantum computing ecosystem now clearly contains a diversity of approaches beyond just qubits. This newly published photonic breakthrough marks an exciting milestone in translating the potential of qumodes into computational reality.

Research paper: Logical states for fault-tolerant quantum computation with propagating light