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D-Wave’s New Quantum Computer Is Inscrutable and Open for Business

D-Wave’s Advantage chip

D-Wave’s Advantage chip
Photo: D-Wave

In theory, quantum computers should be faster at solving many problems compared to classical computers. But because their components are extremely delicate, existing quantum computers are still rudimentary and error-prone, and academic and industry researchers have yet to demonstrate a profitable use for them. In pursuit of commercial applications, companies have built incrementally more complex quantum devices. Today, Canada-based company D-Wave announced the latest in this lineage of machines: Its fifth-generation quantum computer, named Advantage, which is accessible to customers via the cloud.

D-Wave tailored this upgrade based on recommendations from its users, which include companies such as Volkswagen, drug design company Menten AI, and Canadian grocery chain Save-On-Foods. “We’ve gotten about 10 years of user and customer feedback on what works and what doesn’t,” said Mark Johnson, vice president of quantum products at D-Wave and a physicist by training.

Through these partnerships, D-Wave is hunting for ways its devices could benefit businesses. Like other existing quantum computers, D-Wave devices can only solve specific types of problems. D-Wave’s machines are particularly designed to solve optimization problems quickly. For example, Volkswagen has found that D-Wave’s quantum device can help it minimize waste when switching between colors while painting its cars, according to Johnson.

Illustration for article titled D-Wave’s New Quantum Computer Is Inscrutable and Open for Business

D-Wave’s new device consists of 5,000 tiny circuits made of niobium on a chip, cryogenically cooled to near absolute zero. Each circuit constitutes a qubit, producing a magnetic field that can point in one of two directions to represent the value 1 or 0, like a classical bit. But because this magnetic field behaves quantum mechanically, the qubit can represent values that are a superposition of both 1 and 0. To do math, D-Wave’s computer manipulates the qubits’ magnetic field according to an algorithm. Advantage contains 3,000 more qubits than D-Wave’s previous