Quantinuum and Microsoft declare to silence quantum computing “noise.”

Two of the leaders in quantum technologies, Quantinuum and Microsoft, today announced a breakthrough in reducing “noise” that could mean quantum advantage is closer than previously thought.

When it comes to quantum computers, noise refers to internal and external interference that causes errors in quantum computers. Without properly mastering challenges such as temperature fluctuations, external electromagnetic fields, etc Quantum decoherenceQuantum computers will not surpass the capabilities of classical computers.

Because of their susceptibility to errors resulting from such disruptions, today's machines are referred to as so-called NISQ-era devices – Noisy Intermediate-Scale Quantum.

Quantinuum now claims to have achieved a breakthrough on the path to fault-tolerant quantum computing. Along with Microsoft pumping billions into the emerging technology, the company claims to have done so shown logical qubits with an error rate 800 times better than physical qubits – a feat once thought to take years.

“By applying Microsoft’s groundbreaking Qubit virtualization system with error diagnosis and correction to Quantinuum’s ion trap hardware, we were able to run more than 14,000 individual experiments without a single uncorrected error,” the company said in a statement.

Logical vs. physical qubits

Unless you're a quantum enthusiast, we'll forgive you for not immediately understanding the difference between physical qubits and logical qubits. Physical qubits are the parts that function analogously to bits in a classical computer. Except for the whole quantum superposition part, which means they can exist in multiple states at once.

Logical qubits, on the other hand, are more robust forms of qubits made up of multiple physical qubits. Essentially, it is a higher-level abstraction with codes that allow errors to be detected and corrected without the need for direct observation, which can disrupt the quantum state of the physical qubits.

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Microsoft packages the potential post-NISQ achievement as “Level 2 Resilient” and says advanced features based on these logical qubits will be available in private preview to Azure Quantum Elements customers “in the coming months.”

However, this does not mean that the breakthrough will result in a direct commercial advantage for Microsoft's cloud customers.

While this is a necessary technological breakthrough on the path to quantum utility, it would need hundreds of logical qubits to achieve actual scientific breakthroughs and a quantum-classical hybrid supercomputer with thousands of logical qubits to create commercial benefits. Still, this could be the moment we look beyond the NISQ horizon for the first time.

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