The term for a clear case in which a quantum computer can perform computations or run algorithms that no classical computer, now or in the conceivable future, could is “quantum advantage.” Until now, it’s never been achieved.
One of the authors on the paper, TUM’s Robert Konig, told Phys.org “Our result shows that quantum information processing does provide benefits – without having to rely on unproven complexity-theoretic conjectures.”
The team set out, specifically, to prove that quantum computers can do something (anything, really) regular computers can’t. To do this, they built a quantum circuit that solves a complex algebraic formula through the exploitation of a quantum physics loophole allowing things to be in two places at once – no biggie.
This particular formula, according to the researchers, cannot be solved using classical computer circuits. You can read the whole paper here if you want to know more about how the team demonstrated the actual quantum advantage.
As for what this accomplishment means? Well, there’s nothing tangible to point out. The algorithm that the researchers ran wasn’t an algebraic mystery whose solution will result in any immediate impact – at least as best as we can tell. It was, almost certainly, developed merely to prove that it could be done.
But that’s the point. By showing that the people claiming quantum advantage was a fantasy were wrong and that the research is heading in the right direction, we’re closer than ever to realizing the potential of quantum computing.
The field of quantum computing may be decades from producing something that changes “everything” in the way that media hype and marketing teams would have us all believe. But proof of quantum advantage is the guarantee that this research is going to pay off someday.
Hats off to the team that made it happen. For more information visit IBM’s blog here.