China’s Baidu debuts its first quantum computer

Baidu Inc. today started its first quantum computer, along with a technology that will enable users to access the system via the cloud.

Beijing-based Baidu, one of China’s largest tech firms, 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 is developing quantum hardware as well as software that can run on quantum chips.

Baidu’s newly debuted quantum computer is called Qian Shi and features 10 qubits. A qubit is a core building block of quantum computers that is used to perform calculations on data. The more qubits there are in a system, the more performance it provides.

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

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

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

Baidu says that its quantum hardware and software will support “numerous practical quantum applications.” The company detailed that researchers could, for example, run algorithms to ease tasks such as developing new materials and simulating how proteins fold.

In conjunction with the debut of Qian Shi, Baidu today detailed that it has recently completed designing a second, more advanced quantum system. The system is described as a superconducting quantum processor featuring 36 qubits. It has demonstrated “promising simulation results across key metrics” according to Baidu.

Fellow search giant Google LLC is also investing in quantum computing. In 2019, Google debuted a superconducting quantum chip dubbed Sycamore that contains 53 qubits. The company maintains a dedicated quantum computing hub in Santa Barbara, California, that includes hardware research labs, a data center and a chip fabrication facility.

Google has stated 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 capable of avoiding or correcting the calculation mistakes that frequently emerge in qubits. The challenge of developing reliable qubits currently represents one of the main obstacles to large-scale quantum computing.

Several other companies, including both major tech firms 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. last year raised $450 million from investors to advance the development of its light-based quantum computing technology.

Photo: Baidu

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