In the future, quantum computers may be able to solve problems that are far too complex for today’s most powerful supercomputers. To realize this promise, quantum versions of error correction codes must be able to account for computational errors faster than they occur.
However, today’s quantum computers are not yet robust enough to realize such error correction at commercially relevant scales.
On the way to overcoming this roadblock, MIT researchers demonstrated a novel superconducting qubit architecture that can perform operations between qubits — the building blocks of a quantum computer — with much greater accuracy than scientists have previously been able to achieve.
They utilize a relatively new type of superconducting qubit, known as fluxonium, which can have a lifespan that is much longer than more commonly used superconducting qubits.
Their architecture involves a special coupling element between two fluxonium qubits that enables them to perform logical operations, known as gates, in a highly accurate manner. It suppresses a type of unwanted background interaction that can introduce errors into quantum operations.
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These gate fidelities are well above the threshold needed for certain common error correcting codes, and should enable error detection in larger-scale systems.
“Quantum error correction builds system resilience through redundancy. By adding more qubits, we can improve overall system performance, provided the qubits are individually ‘good enough.’ Think of trying to perform a task with a room full of kindergartners. That’s a lot of chaos, and adding more kindergartners won’t make it better,” Oliver explains. “However, several mature graduate students working together leads to performance that exceeds any one of the individuals — that’s the threshold concept. While there is still much to do to build an extensible quantum computer, it starts with having high-quality quantum operations that are well above threshold.”
Building off these results, Ding, Sung, Kannan, Oliver, and others recently founded a quantum computing startup, Atlantic Quantum. The company seeks to use fluxonium qubits to build a viable quantum computer for commercial and industrial applications.
“These results are immediately applicable and could change the state of the entire field. This shows the community that there is an alternate path forward. We strongly believe that this architecture, or something like this using fluxonium qubits, shows great promise in terms of actually building a useful, fault-tolerant quantum computer,” Kannan says.
While such a computer is still probably 10 years away, this research is an important step in the right direction, he adds. Next, the researchers plan to demonstrate the advantages of the FTF architecture in systems with more than two connected qubits.
This work was funded, in part, by the U.S. Army Research Office, the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, an IBM PhD fellowship, the Korea Foundation for Advance Studies, and the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship Program.
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