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Microsoft, Purdue Extend Quantum Computing Partnership To Create More Stable Qubits

Purdue University announced that its partnership with Microsoft on quantum computing projects has been extended by several years. The collaboration is supposed to help both the college and the company bring quantum computers out of the laboratory and into the real world.

It's safe to say that quantum computing is something of an obsession for top universities and businesses alike. Just look at some of the stories from the last few months: Stanford University is researching materials that could make quantum computing more feasible, Google is trying to bring a quantum computer to market within the next few years, and IBM recently leapfrogged the competition by revealing 16- and 17-qubit computers. (A qubit is the quantum equivalent to a bit--the main difference is that qubits aren't binary; they can have a value of 0, 1, or both.)

Microsoft is (clearly) also interested in quantum computing. Besides the partnership with Purdue, the company recently told reporters gathered at its Redmond campus that its researchers are working hard to make a quantum computer. But the company doesn't want to go it alone, and with this extension of its partnership with Purdue, it's reaffirmed its desire to be part of the race to quantum computing. Here's what Microsoft researcher Michael Freedman said about quantum computing in today's announcement:

“There is another computing planet out there, and we, collectively, are going to land on it. It really is like the old days of physical exploration and much more interesting than locking oneself in a bottle and traveling through space. We will find an amazing unseen world once we have general purpose programmable quantum computers.

Freedman also said that Purdue generally, and Michael Manfra specifically, will be "a key collaborator on this journey." Manfra's full title is as follows: Purdue University's Bill and Dee O'Brien Chair Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Professor of Materials Engineering and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. (We're pretty sure that title alone is longer than some college students' papers.) Freedman said that Manfra and his team's work on materials silence and transport physics will help Microsoft "build the systems we will use to do quantum computing."

The partnership will specifically focus on creating a "topological qubit." We'll let Manfra explain that bit:

"One of the challenges in quantum computing is that the qubits interact with their environment and lose their quantum information before computations can be completed," Manfra says. "Topological quantum computing utilizes qubits that store information 'non-locally' and the outside noise sources have less effect on the qubit, so we expect it to be more robust."

The idea, then, is to make quantum computing more stable. Microsoft actually said that was its plan in November 2016, shortly after the University of New South Wales revealed that it had created "dressed qubits" that were 10-times more stable than their predecessors. Chances are good that Purdue wants to best that figure--academia is a cutthroat world--and Microsoft can quickly benefit from those efforts. A stable qubit is a useful qubit; an unstable one isn't likely to help Microsoft lead us to quantum computing like a technological Christopher Columbus.

  • alextheblue
    "his team's work on materials silence"

    Hmm, have they tried placing one in a soundproof chamber? ;)
    Reply
  • virtualban
    As long as they don't go patenting 'method to add 1+1 with qubits', it is fine if they enter the race, even though M$ is maybe the most concentrated embodiment of anticompetitive practices (right alongside Apple).
    But, I expect their lawyers will push for that.
    Methods of operations in any substrate should not be patentable, but the quantum wetware in the organic heads of workers of the patent office is too slow to understand it, or too bribed to pretend to care.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    19756441 said:
    As long as they don't go patenting 'method to add 1+1 with qubits', it is fine if they enter the race, even though M$ is maybe the most concentrated embodiment of anticompetitive practices (right alongside Apple).
    Of course they will. Not to defend MS, specifically, but I think it's not helpful to blame the players when the real problem is the rules of the game.

    19756441 said:
    Methods of operations in any substrate should not be patentable,
    Not sure I agree with this. If the method of carrying out those operations is sufficiently non-obvious and novel, then it should be patentable. Now, the government might intervene if a company insists on unreasonable licensing fees for patents on a fundamental technology that enshrines its monopoly, but I see that as a separate issue than the patentability question.

    19756441 said:
    the quantum wetware in the organic heads of workers of the patent office is too slow to understand it, or too bribed to pretend to care.
    Actually, I think the problem with the current patent system is that it places too much burden & discretion on the patent office. IMO, the only requirements for receiving a patent should be the filing fees and having a sufficiently clear description of the claims that they can be effectively litigated. Then, the actual decision about a patent's legitimacy (both non-obviousness and novelty) should be decided upon litigation, with the loser paying all the court fees (plus damages, if the defendant is found to be infringing). Should the plaintiff lose on any of the claims, those decisions can be cited in future cases to invalidate the plaintiff's case against further would-be infringers.

    So, basically, the only function of a patent would be to grant you a right to sue. But the fact of a patent being issued would have no bearing on your chances of actually winning.

    The current system basically requires perfection from the patent office, meaning the examiners would have to be at least as smart, knowledgeable, and diligent as any of the inventors. That's just unrealistic and renders inevitable the sorts of failures we've seen & come to expect.
    Reply