The Riken Center for Computational Science, a leading Japanese scientific research institute, has successfully integrated Quantinuum's trapped-ion H1 systems into its Saitama facility. The move displays the institute's commitment to exploring quantum computing as a potent amplifier for conventional high-performance computing (HPC) workloads.
Riken's quantum computing strategy involves a synergistic blend of various quantum and annealing technologies alongside traditional supercomputing hardware. Its supercomputing arsenal features prominent A64FX-powered clusters, a product of the collaborative efforts with Fujitsu.
Trapped-Ion Technology under the Microscope
Quantinuum's H1 systems, resulting from a partnership with Honeywell, are based on trapped-ion quantum computing. This approach utilizes electromagnetic fields to levitate charged particles in a vacuum. The quantum bits or qubits, the fundamental units of quantum computation, are encoded in the electric states of the ions. As per the H1 system specifications, it is capable of managing up to 20 trapped-ion qubits and featuring five interaction zones where quantum operations are executed using precision lasers.
While the qubit count of Quantinuum's H1 systems may seem modest, particularly in comparison to IBM's Osprey system which boasts over 400 qubits, the number of qubits is not the sole indicator of a system's performance capability. Like processor cores in classical computers, a higher qubit count does not automatically equate to superior computational power. This principle has informed IBM's strategy to concentrate on crafting scalable quantum processors with fewer qubits in its Quantum-2 systems.
Bridging the Quantum-Classical Divide
The H1 system is not intended to operate in isolation. Rather, Riken envisions using quantum computers as accelerators in a manner akin to the current application of graphics processing units (GPUs). The objective is to hasten the development of software that can effectively utilize quantum acceleration to tackle scientific challenges, previously beyond the reach of traditional supercomputers.
Mitsuhisa Sato, the Deputy Director of Riken Center for Computational Science, asserts that advanced quantum computers, particularly in the NISQ era—where systems demonstrate noisy intermediate-scale quantum—are progressing towards practical application as both their qubit numbers grow and their fidelity improves.
Meanwhile, Riken has also reported on the deployment of Japan's first domestically manufactured superconducting quantum computer through its long-standing partnership with Fujitsu. The system houses 64 superconducting qubits and, according to Riken, is capable of facilitating quantum superpositions and entanglement on a level complex enough to surpass classical computing's capabilities.
A Long Road for Quantum Computing
I recently reported on the obstacles facing quantum computing in the coming years. The Quantum Computing industry has reached a pivotal point where skeptics have voiced concerns over the excessive hype surrounding its potential, suggesting that the practical applications of this nascent technology remain distant. Quantum systems, which utilize qubits to perform computations that would be intractable for classical computers, demand extremely low temperatures for stability and are prone to errors.
Despite the burgeoning interest and continuous investment from various sectors in quantum computing, its practical applications appear to lie in the somewhat distant future. Recognizing this, Fujitsu has projected that a fully fault-tolerant quantum computing system that delivers reliable results may well be over ten years away from materializing. However, ventures and businesses remain undeterred, investing in the potential of quantum and adjacent technologies, a testament to the industry's anticipation of quantum computing's transformative promise.