IonQ Quantum Computer Delivers More Processing Power Than Google's

IonQ, one of many companies developing a quantum computer, has announced a new trapped ion quantum computer with 79 processing qubits. The company claims this quantum computer should beat Google’s 72-qubit quantum computer, not just in terms of number of qubits, but also in total processing performance.

IonQ Quantum Computer Breaks a Record

The IonQ trapped ion quantum computer was able to break a world record for a particular problem using the Bernstein-Vazirani Algorithm. This algorithm tests the ability of a computer to determine an encoded number, called an oracle, when allowed only a single yes/no question.

For a 10-bit oracle (a number between 0 and 1,023) a conventional computer succeeds 0.2 percent of the time. However, the IonQ quantum computer achieved a success rate of 73 percent. This is a better result than any other quantum computer has achieved so far.

IonQ's 79-qubit quantum computer has shown one and two-gate fidelity rates of 99.97 percent and 99.3 percent, respectively, which is significantly higher than the fidelity rates of competitors. The closest seems to be Google's 72-qubit quantum computer with a single-qubit gate fidelity of 99.9 percent and two-qubit gate fidelity rate of 99.4 percent. 

Trapped Ion Quantum Computers

Many companies and research institutions are currently working on developing different types of quantum computers. Google and IBM are working on superconducting quantum computers, Intel and the University of South Wales (UNSW) are working on silicon quantum computers, Microsoft is working on a topological quantum computer, and others, such as IonQ, are working on trapped ion quantum computers.

Trapped ion quantum computers makes use of single-atom qubits that are much more stable, which means lower error rates and ultimately better and faster problem-solving. These qubits are stabilized (trapped) by lasers. IonQ uses atoms from a rare earth mineral called ytterbium.

“In the lab, we saw the potential of ion trap computing. And so we started a company with an incredible team to commercialize it," Christopher Monroe, a Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland who co-founded IonQ with Jungsang Kim, an engineering professor at Duke, said in a statement. "After two years of work, our against-the-grain bet is paying off. The IonQ System is robust and industrial strength. Even at this early stage, the results show the ion trap design has all the advantages we expected and more.”

IonQ promised to publish a paper in peer-reviewed journals in a few months, as well as details about a quantum chemistry simulation that surpasses all similar simulations that have been done in the past. In 2019, the company will also make its trapped-ion quantum computers available to researchers that can use them for applications in medicine, chemistry, energy, logistics and other areas where conventional computers fall short.

Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.