Xi high­lights cru­cial role of quan­tum tech

Sci­en­tists en­cour­aged to make more orig­i­nal in­no­va­tions, break­throughs

China Daily - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHANG ZHIHAO zhangzhi­hao@ chi­nadaily. com. cn

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping has stressed that China will ad­vance the de­vel­op­ment of quan­tum sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy with more strate­gic plan­ning, sup­port­ive poli­cies and in­vest­ment, with the aim of fos­ter­ing a fa­vor­able en­vi­ron­ment for ba­sic re­search, in­no­va­tion, tal­ent train­ing and com­mer­cial­iza­tion in this field.

Dur­ing a group study ses­sion of the Po­lit­i­cal Bureau of the Com­mu­nist Party of China Cen­tral Com­mit­tee held on Fri­day, Xi, who is also gen­eral sec­re­tary of the CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee and chair­man of the Cen­tral Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sion, said quan­tum sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy is at the fore­front of a new round of sci- tech and in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tions.

As a re­sult, de­vel­op­ing quan­tum sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy is of great sci­en­tific and strate­gic sig­nif­i­cance, he said.

China’s sci­en­tific and tech­no­log­i­cal work­ers have made great ef­forts to catch up in quan­tum sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy and have made a num­ber of sig­nif­i­cant in­no­va­tions with in­ter­na­tional in­flu­ence. On the whole, China pos­sesses strength in terms of sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tive abil­i­ties in this field, Xi said.

How­ever, China’s quan­tum sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy de­vel­op­ment still has many weak links and faces mul­ti­ple chal­lenges, he said, call­ing for ef­forts to fol­low the path of in­de­pen­dent in­no­va­tion, make break­throughs in key core tech­nolo­gies, en­sure the safety of in­dus­trial and sup­ply chains and en­hance the abil­ity to re­spond to in­ter­na­tional risks and chal­lenges.

It is im­per­a­tive to sys­tem­at­i­cally sum up the suc­cess­ful ex­pe­ri­ence of China’s quan­tum sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy de­vel­op­ment, learn from the use­ful prac­tices of other coun­tries, thor­oughly an­a­lyze and judge the de­vel­op­ment trends, and find the break­through point for the de­vel­op­ment of quan­tum sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy in China, Xi said.

He ad­vo­cated more strate­gic plan­ning, pol­icy sup­port and in­vest­ment in quan­tum sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy. Train­ing more qual­ity tal­ents, grant­ing sci­en­tists more re­sources and au­ton­omy and en­hanc­ing in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion are also im­por­tant for the de­vel­op­ment of this field, he added.

Quan­tum sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy is the study and ap­pli­ca­tion of the phys­i­cal prop­er­ties of mat­ter at the scale of atoms and par­ti­cles. The foun­da­tional the­ory of quan­tum physics is quan­tum me­chan­ics, and the cur­rent three ma­jor ap­pli­ca­tions of quan­tum physics are quan­tum com­mu­ni­ca­tion, quan­tum com­put­ing and quan­tum pre­ci­sion mea­sure­ment.

For decades, sci­en­tists have be­lieved that har­ness­ing the bizarre phe­nom­ena of quan­tum me­chan­ics could lead to ul­tra- se­cure com­mu­ni­ca­tion for po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and mil­i­tary use.

It can also lead to the cre­ation of ul­tra­pow­er­ful com­put­ers that can sim­u­late ex­tremely com­plex mod­els, al­low­ing new dis­cov­er­ies in fields rang­ing from medicine to ma­te­rial sciences, as well as greatly im­prov­ing the ac­cu­racy of weather and fi­nan­cial fore­cast­ing and the ef­fi­ciency of ma­chine learn­ing and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence.

Chen Yu’ao, a quan­tum physics pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy of China, said he was greatly en­cour­aged by Xi’s speech, which show­cased that China is at­tach­ing im­mense sig­nif­i­cance to this cut­ting- edge field which is crit­i­cal for pro­mot­ing high- qual­ity de­vel­op­ment and safe­guard­ing na­tional se­cu­rity.

“We are also ex­cited to see sup­port for in­dus­tri­al­iz­ing and com­mer­cial­iz­ing our ba­sic re­search into new ap­pli­ca­tions,” Chen said.

Zhang Qiang, a pro­fes­sor of quan­tum com­mu­ni­ca­tion at USTC, said apart from ex­cite­ment, he also felt the ur­gency to de­velop quan­tum sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy.

“We must con­cen­trate our re­sources and tal­ents, un­leash the full po­ten­tial of our sci­en­tists, and make break­throughs in key fields,” he said.

Zhang said the tech­nol­ogy for quan­tum com­mu­ni­ca­tion is rel­a­tively ma­ture, es­pe­cially for quan­tum key dis­tri­bu­tion. “China is cur­rently lead­ing in the field of quan­tum com­mu­ni­ca­tion, but other coun­tries are catch­ing up,” he added.

This mode of com­mu­ni­ca­tion is un­hack­able due to the en­cryp­tion keys be­ing en­coded in par­ti­cles that are in a del­i­cate, en­tan­gled quan­tum state. Any at­tempt to in­ter­cept them would dis­rupt that state and sig­nal the pres­ence of an eaves­drop­per.

Some banks in China are now send­ing ul­tra- se­cured trans­ac­tions along the Jing- Hu Trunk Line, a 2,000- kilo­me­ter quan­tum com­mu­ni­ca­tion line con­nect­ing Bei­jing, Ji­nan, He­fei and Shang­hai, which was launched in 2017.

“This quan­tum com­mu­ni­ca­tion ser­vice is still in early tri­als but the re­sponse so far is very sat­is­fac­tory,” Zhang said. “But whether this tech­nol­ogy could be ex­panded to more ar­eas will need more ap­praisal and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion from gov­ern­ment and reg­u­la­tory agen­cies.”

In terms of quan­tum com­put­ing, tech gi­ants such as Google, IBM, Ama­zon and Mi­crosoft, along with smaller com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Rigetti and D- Wave, are rac­ing to create the world’s first com­mer­cial quan­tum com­puter.

Un­like clas­si­cal com­put­ers, which han­dle data in 0 or 1 bi­nary bits, quan­tum com­put­ers process data us­ing quan­tum bits, or qubits, that can ex­ist in ei­ther 0, 1, or both. As a re­sult, the com­put­ing power of quan­tum com­put­ers can in­crease ex­po­nen­tially as the num­ber of qubits in­creases.

The point at which a quan­tum com­puter can solve a prob­lem that not even the most pow­er­ful su­per­com­puter can solve in any rea­son­able amount of time is called quan­tum supremacy.

Last year, Google claimed it had reached this mile­stone by us­ing a 53- qubit pro­ces­sor named Sy­camore to solve an ar­bi­trary math­e­mat­i­cal com­pu­ta­tion in 200 sec­onds. The same prob­lem would take the world’s most pow­er­ful su­per­com­puter, the Sum­mit, over 10,000 years, ac­cord­ing to a study pub­lished in the jour­nal Na­ture.

How­ever, IBM, the cre­ator of Sum­mit, later chal­lenged Google’s find­ings by ad­just­ing the way its su­per­com­puter ap­proached the task and said it could come up with a so­lu­tion in 2.5 days.

Yuan Zhen­sheng, a pro­fes­sor of quan­tum in­for­ma­tion at USTC, said quan­tum com­put­ing ex­cels in solv­ing com­plex prob­lems that re­quire pro­cess­ing a large amount of data or cal­cu­la­tions, such as cre­at­ing new drug mol­e­cules and weather fore­cast­ing, but it may take years be­fore the tech­nol­ogy can ma­ture.

“The the­o­ret­i­cal frame­work for quan­tum com­put­ing is es­tab­lished, and we al­ready know what is­sues need to be over­come to make it prac­ti­cal, the hard part is solv­ing these dif­fi­cult en­gi­neer­ing chal­lenges,” he said.

For ex­am­ple, most quan­tum com­put­ers need to op­er­ate at a tem­per­a­ture close to ab­so­lute zero (- 273.15 C) and in an ex­tremely clean set­ting with low elec­tro­mag­netic in­ter­fer­ence in or­der to avoid de­co­her­ence, a process in which the en­vi­ron­ment dis­turb the qubits and causes er­rors.

Break­throughs en­vi­sioned

“We may see some ma­jor break­throughs in quan­tum com­put­ing within the next five to 10 years,” he said. “Or­di­nary peo­ple may not need such a pow­er­ful and com­plex ma­chine in their home, so it is un­likely that quan­tum com­put­ers will re­place to­day’s com­put­ers.”

“As we make our way to build­ing a prac­ti­cal quan­tum com­puter, we may stum­ble upon new ma­te­ri­als and dis­cov­er­ies that can also ben­e­fit so­ci­ety,” he said. “Such is the beauty of push­ing the bound­aries of sci­ence into un­known ter­ri­tory.”

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