Finland has recently unveiled its latest achievement in the field of quantum computing – a cutting-edge 20-qubit machine. The project, developed in collaboration with IQM Quantum Computers, marks a significant milestone on Finland’s journey towards its ultimate goal of constructing a 50-qubit quantum computer by 2024.
The Finnish government embarked on the ambitious “Finnish quantum computer development action” project in November 2020, allocating a budget of over €20.7m. The completion of the first quantum computer utilizing five qubits took place in 2021, followed by the successful realization of the 20-qubit machine in October 2023. This progress aligns perfectly with the country’s timeline for achieving a 50-qubit system by the end of 2024.
However, Finland is not content with stopping at 50 qubits. Encouraged by the advancements made, the Finnish government has increased the total budget to €70m and set its sights on a groundbreaking 300-qubit machine. Attaining quantum supremacy is the ultimate objective with this future device.
The newly developed 20-qubit quantum computer is strategically located in Espoo, situated in the southern region of Finland at the VTT facility, which is part of Micronova, the national research infrastructure dedicated to micro and nanotechnology. This 20-qubit machine serves as a technology demonstrator, allowing researchers to gain invaluable insights into the required methods to scale up to 50 qubits.
Demonstrating Progress and Pioneering Solutions
The selection of superconducting qubits for Finland’s quantum computers can be attributed to the country’s extensive research background in superconductivity. VTT, a prominent scientific research organization, has been actively involved in superconducting sensors since the 1990s. Although other quantum computing technologies exist, such as ions, atoms, and photonic quantum computers, the superconducting platform currently reigns supreme due to its maturity in terms of scaling capabilities, qubit quality, and control.
VTT and IQM have continually learned and improved throughout each stage of the quantum computer development process. Notable breakthroughs were achieved in connecting the five-qubit machine to the LUMI supercomputer, enabling the utilization of a hybrid setup that allows certain tasks to be seamlessly transferred between the supercomputer and the quantum device.
By transitioning from a 2D to a 3D architecture, the Finnish researchers successfully overcame the complexities associated with keeping the qubits at ultra-low temperatures. Cooling elements needed to be meticulously positioned to ensure effective cooling, which becomes more challenging when components are stacked instead of placed side by side.
Benchmarking the 20-qubit quantum computer against traditional simulations on supercomputers and comparing its performance with other quantum computers worldwide, VTT and IQM have identified areas for improvement. Quantum devices inherently exhibit noise, and despite sophisticated error-correction algorithms, each quantum computer behaves uniquely due to variations in qubit behavior and error rates. The 20-qubit machine developed by Finland has showcased impressive median fidelities of 99.91% for single-qubit gates and 98.25% for two-qubit gates.
Pekka Pursula, research manager at VTT, emphasizes that quantum computing is not solely about qubit count. Quality and speed play crucial roles in determining superiority within the field. In this realm, Finland’s quantum computing capabilities are comparable to the competition. Additionally, Finland has the potential to possess one of the largest 50-qubit devices in Europe next year, firmly securing its position as a significant quantum player on the continent.
Envisioning Finland’s Future in Quantum Computing
While Finland aims to be among the world’s top three countries in the quantum computing landscape, whether achieving quantum supremacy with the 50-qubit machine remains uncertain. However, with the advent of a 300-qubit quantum computer, Finland anticipates solving practical problems in materials science and conducting molecular simulations at an unprecedented pace. Optimization problems are also on the horizon, utilizing a hybrid computing approach where the supercomputer and quantum computer collaboratively tackle complex tasks.
It is too early to predict precisely where Finland will position itself within the broader quantum computing ecosystem. Nonetheless, Pekka Pursula believes that Finland’s rich scientific background in superconductors, paired with the country’s innovative spirit and determined mindset, sets the stage for remarkable opportunities. As demonstrated by past achievements, great success can emerge from modest beginnings, as exemplified by Finland’s very own Nokia. With the focused allocation of limited resources, Finland has opened a doorway to embrace the boundless potential of quantum computing.
What is a quantum computer?
Quantum computers are revolutionary computing devices that take advantage of the principles of quantum mechanics, such as superposition and entanglement, to perform calculations at an exponentially faster rate compared to traditional computers. They have the potential to solve complex problems in various fields more efficiently.
What are qubits?
Qubits, or quantum bits, are the fundamental building blocks of a quantum computer. They are quantum mechanical systems that can represent both 0 and 1 simultaneously due to the phenomenon of superposition. This unique property allows quantum computers to perform computations in parallel, exponentially increasing their processing power.
What is quantum supremacy?
Quantum supremacy refers to the theoretical point at which a quantum computer can solve a computational problem that is infeasible for classical computers to solve within a reasonable time frame. Achieving quantum supremacy is a significant milestone in the development of quantum computing, demonstrating its superiority over classical computing in certain applications.
What is a hybrid computing approach?
A hybrid computing approach combines the strengths of both classical computing and quantum computing systems. It leverages classical computers to handle certain tasks more efficiently while utilizing quantum processors for specialized calculations. This approach maximizes the capabilities of both types of computers and is particularly useful in solving complex optimization problems.