The race for "quantum supremacy"

The point at which quantum computers will be able to perform computations that are too complex for current digital computers, a landmark referred to as "quantum supremacy," is believed to be fast approaching, but nobody knows when. This point is widely believed to be about 49 qubits — a vital ‘unit’ of information for quantum computers, the quantum equivalent of the bits that represent 1 or 0 in a conventional computer. — when quantum computers demonstrate their superiority over conventional machines. As it currently stands, Google’s researchers appear to be leading the race for a 49-qubit machine, with a 22-qubit machine, although the company has yet to officially confirm this, and IBM has announced a 16-qubit machine. Both companies are developing their machines using superconducting circuits cooled to extreme temperatures. Earlier this week Google and a California-based startup called Rigetti Computing announced software for converting chemical simulations into a form that a quantum computer can handle. This new software, called OpenFermion is freely available and designed to work with other quantum computers, including IBM’s. To find out more check out New Twists in the Road to Quantum Supremacy.