For several months now, quantum manufacturers have been rather discreet. Undoubtedly overwhelmed by the wave of generative artificial intelligence, qubit specialists seem to have fallen into oblivion. Their fate was intertwined with that of the heralds of the metaverse, this virtual universe where artists, politicians and businessmen were to be projected. Error! Quantum, unlike metaversion, is not a chimera. And while some have talked about the end of the bubble, a number of recent announcements suggest that the era of the quantum computer may not be as far off as we imagined. With some beautiful French discoveries in perspective.
In late November in Las Vegas, Amazon Web Services chief Peter De Santis announced the first logical qubit obtained by assembling tens of thousands of physical qubits to correct errors. The operation was carried out at its Center for Quantum Computing, opened in 2019 on the campus of Caltech University, the cradle of quantum computing research.
The US giant has focused on superconducting qubit technology, which is also the path taken by French start-up Alice & Bob, which is announcing its first logic qubit for 2024 using a “much more scalable architecture”.
On December 4 in New York, IBM announced its next-generation quantum processor called Quantum Heron, which enables useful quantum computing. And two days later, the French start-up Qubit Pharmaceuticals announced a major breakthrough: in conjunction with the Sorbonne University, it successfully simulated quantum computing with more than 40 precise qubits on a classical computer. This discovery offers significant opportunities in the field of medical research, especially “in the development of treatments for infectious diseases and cancer,” explains Jean-Philip Piquemal, co-founder and scientific director of Qubit Pharmaceuticals, who heads the theoretical chemistry laboratory at the Sorbonne. University.
The start-up, founded in 2020 by a team of five French and American scientists, employs around sixty people between Paris and Boston. It has already received more than 23 million euros from the funds XAnge, Omnes, Quantonation and Octave Klaba, the founder of OVH. Its performance is based on the quantum emulator technology developed by Google a few years ago, which consists of using supercomputers and forcing them to perform quantum calculations.
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These discoveries, using different paths, show extraordinary emulation around these technologies. The progress achieved is already enormous: fifteen years ago we created a qubit that made an error every 10 operations. Today it’s one in 1,000. Great progress, but the algorithm would need billions of flawless operations to work. We’ll have to wait a little longer before we see how a quantum computer will change the world.