Chinese Baidu launches its first quantum computer

Baidu Inc. today made its debut its first quantum computer, as well as technology that will allow users to access the system via the cloud.

Beijing-based Baidu, one of China’s biggest technology companies, operates a popular search engine and also provides other online services. The company actively invests in quantum computing through its research division, Baidu Research. The division develops quantum hardware as well as software that can run on quantum chips.

Baidu’s new quantum computer is called Qian Shi and features 10 qubits. A qubit is a basic element of quantum computers which is used to perform calculations on data. The more qubits in a system, the more performance it provides.

Baidu describes Qian Shi as a superconducting quantum computer. Superconductivity is a phenomenon where electricity passes through a material without generating heat or losing energy. In recent years, several companies have launched quantum systems that incorporate superconducting components.

Qian Shi runs a software stack that was developed in-house by Baidu. According to the company, the software stack includes a quantum machine learning called Paddle Quantum, a quantum error processing toolkit called QEP, and several other components.

Alongside Qian Shi, Baidu today launched what it describes as the industry’s first “all-platform quantum hardware-software integration” solution. The technology, the company said, will enable access to Qian Shi through mobile apps, personal computers and cloud services. The technology can be used with several types of quantum chips.

Baidu says its quantum hardware and software will support “many practical quantum applications.” The company said researchers could, for example, run algorithms to help with tasks like developing new materials and simulating protein folding.

Along with Qian Shi’s debut, Baidu said today that it has recently completed the design of a second, more advanced quantum system. The system is described as a superconducting quantum processor with 36 qubits. It demonstrated “promising simulation results on key metrics” according to Baidu.

Search giant Google LLC is also investing in quantum computing. In 2019, Google launched a superconducting quantum chip called Sycamore which contains 53 qubits. The company maintains a dedicated quantum computing center in Santa Barbara, California, which includes hardware research labs, a data center, and a chip manufacturing facility.

Google has declared that its goal is to build a “useful, error-corrected” quantum computer by the end of the decade. An error-corrected quantum computer would be able to avoid or correct computational errors that frequently appear in qubits. The challenge of developing reliable qubits currently represents one of the main obstacles to large-scale quantum computing.

Several other companies, including large tech companies and startups, are also developing quantum hardware. IBM Corp. plans to develop a chip with more than 1,300 qubits by 2026. Startup PsiQuantum Inc. raised $450 million from investors last year to advance the development of its quantum computing technology based on the light.

Photo: Baidu

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