Fujitsu may not be worried about crypto-breaking quantum computers coming soon, but that doesn’t mean the US government is willing to risk missing out.
This week, the U.S. Department of Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA), the U.S. military’s preeminent brain farm, unveiled a new endeavor called Unexplored Systems for Utility-Scale Quantum Computing (US2QC) Program, a new quantum system. We explored the design and took advantage of Microsoft’s Atom. , and PsiQuantum can help.
“Experts disagree on whether a practical-scale quantum computer based on conventional designs is decades away or sooner,” Joe Altepeter, who heads DARPA’s US2QC program, said in a statement. No. “US2QC’s goal is to reduce the danger of strategic surprise from untapped quantum computing systems.”
In other words, DARPA doesn’t want to catch up with rival nations if it can build a quantum computer that can break crypto or compromise US defenses in any way.
The idea that quantum computers could defeat existing cryptographic methods has been around for years, prompting investment in quantum-secure cryptographic methods. At least the bugs we know of have never been proven to work.
Under the US2QC program, DARPA will work with these companies to fund them as they develop design concepts for “practical-scale” quantum computers. It is more than a scientific project and refers to quantum systems capable of producing computational value that exceeds its cost.
According to Altepeter, the three companies were selected based on several criteria. “Last year, if anyone thought of a truly innovative approach to building a useful quantum computer in the near future (within 10 years), we would love to hear from you. I did,” he explained.
Microsoft, Atom, and PsiQuantum were ultimately chosen, but of course the institution hedged its bet on the technology that would make way for practical quantum computing. So each vendor has a slightly different approach to the problem.
Atom, for example, is working on a scalable quantum computing platform built around an array of optically trapped atoms. Meanwhile, PsiQuantum is working with GlobalFoundries to adapt silicon photonics to quantum computing, using a lattice of photonic qubits to enable error correction.
Finally, Microsoft, the largest of the three, is developing a quantum system that uses a topological qubit architecture. The company says it can shrink a million-qubit system down to fit in a closet. .
For those unfamiliar, qubits are the basic units of computing in quantum systems. However, the mechanism by which these qubits are utilized varies by design.
“The ultimate outcome of the program is a win-win: U.S. commercial leadership in this strategically important technology area and national security not taken by surprise,” said Artepeter.
The United States is not the only country investing in quantum computing. China is actively developing its own quantum system. Earlier this year, a research paper stoked concerns that China was on the verge of breaking her 2048-bit RSA encryption.
As detailed at the time, this paper shows that applying Claus Peter Schnorr’s recent factorization algorithm to a quantum approximation optimization algorithm enables RSA-2048 encryption using a system with only 372 physical qubits. It suggested that it could be broken.
This is significantly less than the 10,000 qubits and 2.23 trillion quantum gates that researchers at Fujitsu recently estimated needed to break RSA encryption in 104 days. As I said before, we are far from achieving that goal. IBM’s Osprey system has 433 qubits of computing power.
While researchers disagree on the credibility of the paper’s conclusions, the potential for quantum computing to disrupt governments is clearly not overlooked, especially as US-China relations continue to deteriorate. Hmm. ®