The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has reaffirmed its commitment to Microsoft's quantum computing endeavors by extending financial support through its Underexplored Systems for Utility-Scale Quantum Computing (US2QC) program. The aim of this initiative is to propel novel quantum computing methods that can achieve utility-scale operation—being able to produce valuable computation greater than the cost of operations.
Strides Toward Utility-Scale Operations
DARPA's US2QC program, which intends to run until March 2025, distinguishes quantum computing approaches that may power fault-tolerant systems within the next decade. Microsoft, alongside PsiQuantum, continues to be at the forefront of this effort with the latest infusion of funding. Dr. Chetan Nayak from Microsoft's Azure Quantum hardware team elaborated on the imperative to reduce quantum computing error rates. The target is to achieve fewer than one error per thousand operations to make quantum computing viable for practical applications.
Microsoft's strategy revolves around enhancing logical qubits through hardware design, thereby reducing errors. By developing “topological qubits,” Microsoft claims it can create qubits that are inherently less prone to interference and noise, a critical step in realizing reliable quantum computing. Conversely, PsiQuantum is developing fault-tolerant quantum computers using photonic chips that operate at cryogenic temperatures, leveraging the properties of light to perform computation.
A Developing Quantum Landscape
While DARPA's recent focus remains on Microsoft and PsiQuantum's promising methodologies, it should be noted that other players such as Atom Computing have featured in the program's earlier phase with their “atomic array-based quantum computing” technology, although they were not mentioned in the later funding rounds. The notable progress for DARPA-funded companies gives an important peek into the continuously evolving quantum computing industry, as firms endeavor to build the infrastructure for the next generation of computers that will revolutionize computing as we know it.