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Quantum mechanics describes how nature works at a fundamental level. Using those principles to build a quantum computer doesn’t just mean working at the nanoscale level; it also means keeping everything cold enough to see quantum effects. That’s why D-Wave runs its Orion system at a temperature 250 times colder than interstellar space.
Last year the company had a 16-qubit quantum computer that founder and CTO Geordie Rose claimed was the most powerful quantum computer ever built and the first ever to run commercially-relevant applications. This year it has 28 qubits, it can recognise photos of famous landmarks – and you might soon be able to use it over the Web.
That’s far ahead of most other quantum computing developments and D-Wave has managed it by using semiconductor manufacturing techniques and existing chip fabs instead of optical circuits, quantum dots, laser containment or other approaches requiring exotic manufacturing techniques. D-Wave is also working on the other half of the problem; the programming tools for writing applications that take advantage of what quantum computing promises to deliver.
Rose defines a quantum computer as “a machine that harnesses the language of nature at the most fundamental level to gain, in some cases, extremely impressive performance gains over conventional computers. Computers are constrained by the laws of physics; what you can do with information is no more than the laws of physics, when you operate at classical level. On a quantum computer, information processing is done on devices that obey the laws of quantum mechanics. These things can be very small and very cold, and they can be built out of exotic materials.”