The Next Five Years in Quantum Computing

1/26/24 ECE

An interdisciplinary approach could accelerate progress toward practical quantum systems

graphic depicting a quantum bit
The Next Five Years in Quantum Computing

Quantum computing has captured the public’s attention due to its incredible theoretical applications, but the intensely complicated underlying physics make it difficult for even computing experts in other fields to understand.

Computing researchers in other disciplines, however, have valuable knowledge to aid in the development of quantum computers. Though quantum computers operate very differently from classical computers, some of the approaches used in classical computing, such as architectural and benchmarking techniques, can be modified and applied to quantum systems. 

The Five-Year Update to the Next Steps in Quantum Computing workshop was born out of this need to convene experts within and outside of the quantum computing world. This workshop, led by Kenneth Brown of Duke, Fred Chong of the University of Chicago and Kaitlin N. Smith of Northwestern University and Infleqtion, with support from previous CCC Council member Thomas Conte of Georgia Tech, was held in May 2022 in Washington.

The workshop report emphasizes, among many other recommendations, the need for more quantum workshops and projects that allow collaboration between disciplines.

“In particular,” said Chong, a professor of computer science, “it is our hope that a vertically-integrated, interdisciplinary approach will accelerate progress towards practical quantum systems.” 

Quantum computing is in the Noisy Intermediate Scale Quantum (NISQ) Era currently, meaning that quantum computers are still prone to high error rates and are able to maintain few logical qubits. The work being done in quantum error correction, however, is enabling quantum computing to transition towards a fault-tolerant future. 

“There has been remarkable progress in quantum computer hardware in the last five years,” said Brown, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, “but challenges remain in terms of reducing errors and scaling systems. We thought it was critical to bring together experts in quantum computing, computer architecture, and systems engineering to plan for the next 10 years.”