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  • Writer's pictureDavid James Connolly

Quantum breakthrough ushers in new application era

Governments looking to promote quantum computing should invest in the hardware, the workforce and the science, says IBM’s research vice-president of quantum computing, Jay Gambetta.

Dr Gambetta, an ex-surfer who obtained his PhD at Griffith University on the Gold Coast, said quantum computing had reached an important stage whereby applications and algorithms could be developed on quantum computers rather than simulated on classical computers.

Ex Gold Coast surfer and now IBM VP for quantum computing, Jay Gambetta studied quantum computing at Griffith University.

For businesses, this meant there would begin to be specialist areas that domain experts could begin to apply the power of quantum computing to, Dr Gambetta said.

“I think simulating quantum physics is very important for many, many industries, be it material science, chemistry, even understanding how certain things will react.

“This is where we see a lot of the enterprises normally getting a demo working. I think the success of this will be when we create verticals that domain experts know.”

Quantum computers use sub-atomic physics to provide much greater computing power than classical binary computers.

Dr Gambetta said businesses could also use machines to learn from data in areas where it was “still hard for classical [computers] to do calculations on.”

This could include complex financial data that enabled better predictions.

Dr Gambetta was speaking at the announcement that a joint IBM-Melbourne University research team had created some of the largest quantum entanglement states of their kind in the world.

Quantum entanglement is a driver of the processing power. With larger entanglement states, users of quantum computers can tackle more complex problems using quantum algorithms.

The Melbourne University research team led by Dr Charles Hill used IBM quantum processors to entangle all the qubits of a 27-qubit chip and a 65-qubit processor.

Until now, users have only been able to work with a few qubits at a time.

Being able to entangle more qubits allows exploration of the incredibly complex calculations quantum promises.

Both Dr Hill and Dr Gambetta said the role of government was critical in developing quantum technologies.

Their observations follow an announcement Australia is investing in a $70 million commercialisation hub for quantum. The federal government is also developing a quantum strategy based on the road map released by CSIRO last year.

Dr Gambetta identified three areas for governments to focus on. These included the hardware, with the aim to get as many researchers using quantum technologies as possible.

He said the second was workforce development, to build up the local skill base; and continued research focus on the science of quantum.

“I see it as very important that it’s this combination of government, industry and, and the academic for us to accelerate quantum computing,” Dr Gambetta said.

He said governments investing their money to help develop the ecosystem was very important.

Dr Hill said Australia already had serious capability in the quantum area.

“If all of our scientists were a sporting team, some of the scientists in Australia would be superstars that would be known around the world,” Dr Hill said.

“I don’t know that it’s necessarily something the general public is really aware of that we have such a strong expertise in. So it’s something I think we’ve got the options there and something we need to build on the future.”

The national quantum strategy is being developed by Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Cathy Foley, with the aim to align industry and government efforts and unlock greater private sector investment.

Dr Gambetta cautioned about dismissing classical computing, arguing that it was better to see quantum as an accelerator of computing.

“We shouldn’t reinvent what is classical as well. We have to always be asking ourselves, how do we connect quantum to classical.”

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David James Connolly

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