Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

Microsoft announces Quantum computing ambitions with Azure Quantum and improved quantum system

  • Quantum computers work on the principles of quantum mechanics and use superposition to perform operations
  • Microsoft has a three pronged goal with Azure Quantum

NEW DELHI : Hot on the heels of Google's claim of quantum supremacy, Microsoft has announced its quantum computing based cloud ecosystem named Azure Quantum for developers and enterprises. The announcement was made by CEO Satya Nadella in at the Microsoft Ignite developer conference in Florida on 4 November.

Quantum computers work on the principles of quantum mechanics and use superposition to perform operations. Unlike modern day computers where a sequence of bits (binary digits used as fundamental unit of computing) exist in a state of either a 0 or 1, Quantum computing uses qubits (quantum version of bits used by quantum computers) which can exist as both 0 and 1 at the same time. This is what allows a quantum computers to carry out calculations beyond the realm of modern day computers. A case in point is Google's quantum machine powered by 54 qubits based Sycamore chip which successfully performed an experimental computation in 200 seconds. Google claims the fastest existing supercomputer would have taken 10,000 years for the same calculation.

Microsoft has a three pronged goal with Azure Quantum. It can be used for learning, developers can write programs with Q# and the QDK and test their codes against simulators and organisations can use them to solve complex business problems using solutions and algorithms running in Azure.

The new platform is also hardware agnostic, which means it can be used with any type of quantum computing hardware. Global conglomerate Honeywell and quantum computing startup IonQ are some of the hardware companies that have partnered with Microsoft to leverage the benefits of Azure Quantum. This will help these companies offer quantum computing as a service running quantum applications on cloud.

To power the Azure Quantum, Microsoft claims to have made some major upgrades to its quantum computing systems under the leadership of David Reilly, scientific director and professor at the University of Sydney. Reilly will publish further details on the subject in coming months.

Microsoft calls these upgrades a breakthrough in quantum engineering and believe they will open up possibilities of scaling beyond the physical limitations of current quantum systems. For instance, the new system now allows users to control up to 50,000 qubits using three wires. Microsoft has also developed a new cryogenic CMOS design and a 1- cm2 chip for computing at near absolute zero temperatures.

“It’s fair to say the chip we have developed is one of the most sophisticated micro-devices ever made. It has miniaturised the complex support networks that are making early-stage quantum computers possible. This means the next step, which is to scale-up to devices that actually solve real-world problems, enters the realm of possibility," David Reilly said in a press statement.

A quantum computer operates at deep cryogenic temperatures (above 100mK) and requires thousands of qubits to run quantum algorithms. Application of CMOS radio-frequency integrated circuits can bring down cryogenic temperatures down to 4K, leading to higher level of system integration and scalability for quantum computers.

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