Is quantum computing real?

Researchers have been working on quantum systems for more than a decade, in the hopes of developing  super-tiny, super-powerful computers. And while there is still plenty of excitement surrounding quantum computing, significant roadblocks are causing some to question whether quantum computing will ever make it out of the lab.

Not sure what quantum computing is? Here are some slides that offer a brief explanation of quantum computing. Also, here are some images showing a quantum computer built by the Canadian company D-Wave Systems. ( Read the story version .)

What's a qubit?

A schematic illustration of a single qubit, showing the superposition of states (magnetic fields pointing up and down) A superposition can be thought of as the bit of information being "undecided" as to whether it is a 0 or a 1.

Strange loops

Strange loops

An illustration of eight interacting loops of superconducting metal, each denoting the position of a qubit in a D-Wave processor. Qubits are connected together where the loops cross (blue circles).

Processor layout

Processor layout

A schematic of the layout of a processor, showing the qubit loops (long, pink sections) amongst the associated processor circuitry (blue and yellow).

Wafers being fabricated

Wafers being fabricated

A photograph of processors on a wafer prior to dicing, fabricated at D-Wave's superconducting foundry. The largest of these processors contains 128 qubits.

Motherboard

Motherboard

A photograph of a processor wirebonded to its associated electronics on the quantum computer equivalent of a motherboard, to allow signals to access to the chip.

Super-cool

Super-cool

The processor is housed in a special purpose package which is cooled to nearly absolute zero (20mK), in order for the quantum effects to occur on-chip.

Dilution refrigeration

Dilution refrigeration

The processor and its packaging require specialized cooling equipment known as a dilution refrigerator in order to reach the cold temperatures required to operate. The processor also needs carefully engineered shielding to prevent unwanted magnetic signals from disrupting the quantum computation.

Measuring coolant gases

Measuring coolant gases

The specialized equipment required for quantum computing means that these systems will be operated as cloud computing resources, housed in special data centers. Here is shown part of the control system that accompanies the computer itself. This part monitors the coolant gases flowing through the computer's refrigeration equipment.

Preparing the processor

Preparing the processor

A D-Wave scientist in the testing phase, preparing the processor's environment to ensure that all the systems are working correctly before the computer can be cooled and then programmed.

Voila! The 128-qubit 'Rainier' chipset

The final D-Wave product system – The D-Wave One computer with 128 qubit "Rainier" chipset.

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