The world’s most powerful supercomputers are pretty useful when it comes to solving problems. But even they are no match for certain complex problems such as running simulations on molecules and other things in chemistry. Quantum computing, long deemed to be the greatest revolution in information technology, has a means to solve such problems. And researchers at IBM have showed the world the way.
The results of this new method is to be published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature. It uses a new algorithmic technique that could eventually allow the unique properties of quantum computers to solve hitherto unsolvable problems.
The first problem solved with this technique is the derivation of the lowest energy state of a molecule of beryllium hydride. This kind of information will allow scientists to better understand chemical reactions, among other things. While beryllium hydride is a relatively simple molecule, bigger, more complex ones cannot be simulated with even the most powerful of supercomputers today. That’s why quantum computing is seen as the next major breakthrough, that will enable even more breakthroughs in the future.
The technology and technique is not perfect, of course. Not yet. By its nature, quantum computing can introduce errors into a complex simulation. The more complex a simulation, the more likely those errors will be introduced. However, the inaccuracy in IBM’s latest experiment is estimated to be between two and four percent. That is not to say that a more complex molecule simulation would return a similar margin of error though.
This simulation is seen to be an important step in the march towards commercialised quantum computing. Perhaps, some time in the future, quantum computers will replace the binary systems we take for granted today in our homes and pockets. However, there are more steps ahead to make that possibility a reality. For one, the errors inherent in quantum computing need to be ironed out, otherwise they will be of limited use in scientific endeavour.
While IBM isn’t the only organisation to be working on quantum computing, it is the first to achieve this breakthrough. Google is also working on its own solution to a 50 qubit computer. Small steps are being taken towards a worthy goal.