Baidu announces development of first quantum computer with cloud services

12-09-2022 |   |  By Robin Mitchell

As the world continues to pursue quantum computers, Chinese technology company Baidu announces the development of their first quantum computer as well as a cloud service to allow customers to utilise the platform. What challenges does quantum computing face, what does Baidu offer, and how far away are practical quantum machines?

What challenges does quantum computing face?

Quantum mechanics is arguably one of the most unusual sciences known to man. Everything lies in some probability, nothing makes sense at the quantum level, and the vast majority of those who believe the understand something about quantum mechanics probably don’t. A classic example is the idea of quantum entanglement; there is a general conception that the quantum entanglement of two particles means that affecting one changes the state of the other no matter how far apart the two are. 

In reality, this is entirely false as quantum entanglement only means that collapsing the wave function of one particle (i.e. through observation) will allow you to know what the state of the other entangled particle is no matter the separation of distance. But this doesn't mean that you can force the value of one entangled particle so that the other changes state.

These same misconceptions also follow quantum computing whenever discussed by the general public. Many believe that quantum computers will replace traditional computing technologies, but the truth is that quantum computing applications are extremely limited. Instead of being used for basic programming and processes, quantum computers will find application in specific niches such as encryption, path finding, and exponentials. Simply put, the use of entanglement allows for quantum computers to turn 2N problems into 2N problems. 

Even though the theory around quantum computers is pretty much solid, trying to build a quantum computer is no small feat. By far one of the biggest challenges faced by researchers is trying to maintain ultra-low cool temperatures. Temperature is nothing more than vibration energy of particles, and a particle in a quantum state is vulnerable to any outside energy sources.  At temperatures near absolute zero, particles barely move, and this is ideal for retaining quantum states in particles. Cooling devices down to the -150ºC is easy to do with the use of liquefied gasses (such as helium and nitrogen), but absolute zero is closer to -273ºC. To achieve temperatures within a few degrees requires the use of complex pumps, cryostats, and other multimillion dollar systems that are simply out of reach of even big businesses.

Another challenge faced by quantum computers is trying to integrate enough qubits to make such a system practical. Researchers have already demonstrated multiple qubits working together, but a practical computer requires qubits in the thousands. Trying to connect thousands of qubits together while retaining entangled states across large distances results in the loss of quantum states, and this disrupts the ability to perform large quantum calculations.

Baidu announces first quantum computer and opens cloud services for experimentation

Recently, Chinese technology company Baidu announced that it has developed its first quantum computer called Qian Shi. The new system has a quantum computing capability of 10 qubits and is located at Baidu’s Quantum Computing Lab in Beijing. According to Baidu, the Qian Shi integrates all component needed for a complete computing solution that includes all hardware, software, and applications while also utilising Baidu’s in-house software stack.

Access to the machine has now been opened up to customers via a cloud quantum computing services which removes the need for customers to have a quantum computer physically presents while also removing the need for large amounts of investment capital in acquiring a computing platform.

The construction of the Baidu quantum computer looks very similar to those made by other research teams, but this is only due to the need for a quantum cryostat which consists of multiple metal plates connected together with pipes and rods. The actual quantum device is a small chip that sits inside the cryostat which is cooled to near absolute zero temperatures.

On the official site for the Qian Shi quantum computer, live data on its performance can be seen, and the current figures (as of 31/08/2022), are a 31us T1 lifetime, 8.7us T2 life time,  and a single-qubit gate fidelity of 99.8%.

How far away are practical quantum computers?

It is highly unlikely that the general public will see quantum computers in their homes for the next several decades (this could easily be 100 years away if ever), due to the need for highly controlled environments and million dollar cryostats. It is more than possible that such computers will find their way into data centres that can afford such platforms and then offer quantum services to customers on a per-use basis, but even then current quantum computers simply lack commercial practicality. 

The challenges of connecting multiple qubits together may be solved by researchers with the use of parallel designs. Instead of trying to make one large quantum processor, smaller cores can be connected together in parallel that each maintain their quantum states while passing information to other qubits. This would help to scale designs rapidly while maintaining quantum locality on each processor slice.

But looking at modern quantum computing technology, it is clear that the world is still in the early days of quantum computing, and it is highly unlikely that practical systems will be around any time soon.


By Robin Mitchell

Robin Mitchell is an electronic engineer who has been involved in electronics since the age of 13. After completing a BEng at the University of Warwick, Robin moved into the field of online content creation developing articles, news pieces, and projects aimed at professionals and makers alike. Currently, Robin runs a small electronics business, MitchElectronics, which produces educational kits and resources.

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