Microsoft Azure reveals a key breakthrough toward scaling quantum computing

The new method calls for the use of an elusive physical property.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Microsoft’s Azure Quantum program has engineered devices capable of developing quantum properties that scientists have dreamed of for nearly a century, according to a blog by the company published Monday.

It’s a key breakthrough that could engender a new era of quantum computing that sees millions of qubits work together for the greater good. 

What are the benefits?

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An exotic piece of physics

“What’s amazing is humans have been able to engineer a system to demonstrate one of the most exotic pieces of physics in the universe. And we expect to capitalize on this to do the almost unthinkable — to push towards a fault-tolerant quantum machine that will enable computation on an entirely new level that’s closer to the way nature operates,” said Krysta Svore, a Microsoft distinguished engineer who leads the company’s quantum software program, in the blog post.

“It’s never been done before, and until now it was never certain that it could be done. And now it’s like yes, here’s this ultimate validation that we’re on the right path,” she said.

What have researchers achieved? They have developed devices capable of inducing a topological phase of matter bookended by a pair of Majorana zero modes, types of quantum excitations first theorized about in 1937 that don’t normally exist in nature.

Majorana zero modes are crucial to protecting quantum information, enabling reliable computation, and producing a unique type of qubit, called a topological qubit, which Microsoft’s quantum machine will use to store and compute information.

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Solving some of the world's biggest problems

A quantum computer built with these qubits will likely be more stable than machines built with other types of known qubits and may help solve some of the problems which currently baffle classical computers.

“Figuring out how to feed the world or cure it of climate change will require discoveries or optimization of molecules that simply can’t be done by today’s classical computers, and that’s where the quantum machine kicks in,” said in the blog Microsoft’s quantum corporate vice president Zulfi Alam.

“I don’t know that we’ve done that in the last two or three generations,” he said. “So hopefully we can give back now and do something to help heal the planet, and I believe we need the computational power of quantum computing to accomplish that.”