How Fast are Quantum Computers

Clint Brown

Quantum Computers vs Classical Computers: Processing Speed and the Future 

If you have been following our article series, you would have learned that the clock cycle of quantum devices is slower than that of conventional devices. Despite that, the former processes data faster than the latter. In fact, in one article, a tech writer wrote that quantum devices are 158 million times faster than today’s most sophisticated supercomputers. There are other opinions suggesting that the new generation of computers can perform in four minutes what conventional devices will do in 10,000 years. Given the importance of ultrafast speed in computing, does this mean a bleak future for conventional computers? Well, to learn how things will play out, and just how fast are quantum computers, continue reading this informative piece.  

A model of a quantum computer against the background of formulas, a quantum factorization algorithm

Classical Computer’s Processing Speed 

As you already know, the central processing unit (CPU) or processor of a computer is also known as its brain. It is designed with lots of transistors in a way that increasing its computational capability will require adding more and more transistors to it. Basically, the processor executes the user’s instructions. The strings that the processor manipulates are made up of bits. As you are well aware, conventional digital devices process and store information in binary digits (or bits). The bits create binary codes the machine has to read and understand before executing tasks. Depending on the charge applied to it, the bits could be 0 (OFF) or 1 (ON). Also, the pair of bits can produce four values: 00, 01, 10 and 11. This means that the bits can only exist in either state of ON or OFF, but not at the same time. When the strings get longer, the processor can have up to 3 bits – with eight values. To determine the rate (speed) at which the device executes instructions, its clock speed is measured in gigahertz. In other words, gigahertz means billions of simple logic operations per second. 

Quantum Computer’s Processing Speed 

Unlike conventional digital devices built with transistors, quantum technology uses qubits for processing data. Qubits are particles that exist simultaneously – due to features known as superposition and entanglement. Because the qubit can exist in several forms, quantum devices can perform tasks much faster than their classical counterparts. Given this high speed, data processing in quantum devices is measured in teraflops (trillions of logic operations per second). 

Processing Speed: Classical Computers vs. Quantum Computers 

Having come thus far, let’s focus on speed and then discuss some real-world examples.  

In 2019, tech giant Google disclosed that it has reached quantum supremacy. According to Google, its quantum device can calculate in less than four minutes what it takes the world’s fastest supercomputer 10,0 00 years to work out. Giving specific details, the Google team stated that its quantum computer, Sycamore, completed the task in 200 seconds and that it has 53 qubits. The researchers also revealed that Sycamore has transmon superconducting qubits and refrigerated in a dilution fridge to cool it under 10 millikelvin. Digging deeper into its finer points, Sycamore processes data using microchips and features qubits stored in large components made of gold and copper. 

In September 2020, D-Wave, the leading quantum tech company, launched its quantum computer known as the Advantage system. The Canadian quantum software development firm stated that the Advantage system is the first of its kind in providing commercial and business solutions. Its press release indicates that the Advantage system has a new processor architecture of 5,000 qubits and 15-way qubit connectivity. With this tech wizardry, the next-gen gadget can tackle their users’ most difficult and complex business challenges. To get a sense of what this cutting-edge device brings to the business milieu, the D-Wave team said that the Advantage system can solve complex problems 3 million times faster than today’s digital devices. While all this sounds mind-blowing, it is noteworthy that D-Wave does not implement the generic quantum solution. Instead, the firm specializes in quantum annealing, a method of optimizing the solution of a problem, which, in this case, is business-oriented.  

Jumping on the bandwagon of quantum supremacy, the IBM quantum team unveiled its ultrafast quantum computer, Eagle, in 2021. The Eagle has 127 qubits, making it the world’s fastest quantum device at time of writing. (see the following article for any update to the fastest quantum computer available today). In short, it surpassed China’s 113-qubit Jiuzhang 2.0, Google’s 72-qubit Bristlecone and IBM’s 65-qubit Hummingbird. By arranging the qubits in a single layer, errors are reduced to the barest minimum. With respect to its speed, the Eagle is faster than any conventional device ever known to man. In precise terms, experts estimate that the Eagle can solve in 3 minutes problems that will take conventional devices about 600 million years to tackle. As IBM puts it, the milestone is quantum advantage. The team further claimed that recreating one Eagle’s state on a conventional supercomputer would require all the atoms in every human being on planet earth. 

Photo of Light posing the question, just How Fast Are Quantum Computers

Is this the end of the Classical Computer era?

At this juncture, you may just be wondering, “Will the emergence of quantum computing herald the end of the conventional computing era?” In truth, you are not alone. This is because speed means everything in computing. For instance, why would anyone spend two weeks doing a task they can complete in a fraction of seconds? Beyond a shadow of doubt, this is what quantum computing brings to the table. However, according to Rebel Brown, VP of Strategy and Marketing at Quantum Computing Inc. (QCI), today’s digital devices will still be useful in the future. Brown believes that conventional devices will always remain relevant, especially for working out simple calculations and manipulating data with spreadsheets, sending out emails, and typing with word-processing software. 

In her view, Brown opined that the next-gen digital gadgets will only augment today’s digital devices. That is, with advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence, quantum devices are likely to completely substitute conventional devices where predictive analyses are critical. This is because they can analyze data and accurately predict the outcomes at a breakneck speed. For instance, it will be highly significant in accurately predicting weather patterns and traffic modeling. Indeed, close observations show that there are constantly changing variables in those spectrum’s. Additionally, quantum technology will also play a pivotal role in mimicking complex chemical and physical processes of nature at atomic level. Plus, they can foster the process of developing new medicines (and vaccines) and inventing superconducting materials that are capable of conducting electricity without incurring energy losses.

About the author

Our team consists of PhD and industry experts specializing in quantum computing. With extensive experience in research and practical applications, they are dedicated to helping businesses understand and harness the power of quantum technology for innovation and growth.

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