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China in race to build first code-breaking quantum supercomputer

Discussion in 'China & Far East' started by cirr, Jan 10, 2014.

  1. cirr

    cirr ELITE MEMBER

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    Researchers in China are pulling out all the stops to create the holy grail of technology - the world's first code-breaking supercomputer

    PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 January, 2014, 4:19am
    UPDATED : Friday, 10 January, 2014, 10:59am

    Stephen Chen binglin.chen@scmp.com

    [​IMG]

    It is said that the success of British encryption experts in cracking the Nazis' "unbreakable" Enigma cipher machine probably contributed more to the Allies' eventual victory than the more famous Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb.

    Today China, the US and other major powers are racing to develop another game-changer in intelligence encryption - the first quantum supercomputer, which would become the ultimate code-breaker.

    Quantum computers have so far existed mainly in the world of science fiction and research laboratories. But they hit the headlines recently after it was reported that the US National Security Agency had been building "a cryptologically useful quantum computer [in] room-sized metal boxes", according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden to The Washington Post.

    The NSA regards itself as on a par with quantum computing labs in Europe in terms of progress, but a breakthrough soon remains unlikely, the documents said.

    China is working on an ambitious project of its own and has built a new facility in Hefei , Anhui , in which to do it.

    Thanks to such bizarre features of quantum physics as "superposition" and "entanglement", a quantum machine could, the theory goes, think in terms of "zero" and "one" at the same time. It would be therefore able to carry out millions of calculations simultaneously, while even the most powerful of today's computers chug along solving each task one after the other.

    The possible uses of the quantum computer make it the holy grail of intelligence encryption. It could be used to break even the most secure codes used by banks, governments and militaries around the world.

    While there is no sign that China is close to developing a practical, working model, it has pulled out all the stops to build the ultimate code-breaker.

    At leading universities, state research institutes and the military, scientists have been given the green light - and, one would assume, ample resources - by the government to create the first quantum supercomputer.

    Researchers working on projects from the generation of the strongest ever man-made magnetic field to building a "quantum chip" from diamonds have been told by officials to get the job done, regardless of how much it costs:hitwall::cry::D.

    The Steady High Magnetic Field Experimental Facility, housed in a three-storey complex on the Hefei Science Island, could be activated this year to create the extreme environment needed to make quantum computing possible.

    [​IMG]The facility was designed to generate and maintain a magnetic field at 45 Tesla, a feat listed by Guinness World Records as being achieved only by the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in the US.

    Once in operation, the new Hefei facility would likely exceed the 45 Tesla output.

    Dr Chen Hongwei, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' High Magnetic Field Laboratory and leader of the quantum computer project at the magnetic facility, said strong magnetic fields could overcome some of the biggest obstacles in quantum computing.

    To function properly, a quantum computer would have to employ particles that had been given the state of superposition that allowed the information of "one" and "zero" to be carried simultaneously by each "qubit", or quantum bit, the unit of quantum information.

    The more qubits that are used, the more powerful the computer would become.

    The problem, Chen said, was that qubits were very fragile, and tended to remain very close to one another in a fuzzy cluster, making computing operations difficult, if not impossible.

    "You can't do anything with a qubit if you can't even find one," he said. "However, under super-strong magnetic fields, the distance between qubits can be increased, making our jobs easier."

    Experiments using smaller magnets at the facility have had encouraging results, Chen said. It was hoped that qubits would be "tempered" in magnetic fields of 45 Tesla or higher when the facility's most powerful magnet is commissioned this year.

    "If qubits can be tamed this way, the first quantum computer may be born inside a magnet," Chen said.

    The Hefei facility consists of an enormous magnet and a maze of pipelines and water tanks to cool the intense heat generated by its operation.

    "However, if it turns out that quantum computing can be carried out only in extreme environments like super-strong magnetic fields, I am afraid the first quantum computer will be a big hill to climb," Chen said.

    "Also, the magnet requires an enormous amount of energy to keep it working - so it would probably need its own dedicated power station as well."

    Such restrictions obviously put quantum computing well beyond civilian use, he said.

    To make a quantum computer as easily accessible as today's PCs, scientists would need to avoid such extreme environments. "A quantum computer that works in such an extreme environment has no commercial or personal use," he said. "But governments may want it for special purposes."

    One major challenge for the Hefei experiment is maintaining the stability of the magnetic field at high operational intensity. The stronger the magnetic output, the more difficult it is to maintain a stable environment for quantum computing. One source of disturbance comes from the cooling system, the vibration of which might affect the delicate operation of the qubits.

    The Hefei experiment is just part of the government's intensive effort to develop a quantum computer.

    The National Natural Science Foundation of China, for instance, funded 90 quantumrelated projects last year.

    Professor Wang Haohua, a physicist at Zhejiang University, who is trying to build a quantum computer with superconducting materials, said the central government was so eager - even desperate - to have one that scientists had been told to ignore non-technical constraints such as cost and size.

    "The value of the quantum computer to the military and government is so great, its cost has never been considered," he said.

    "Many Chinese scientists abroad, such as myself, have been attracted by the rapid technological development in China and are returning home.

    "We hope to help China catch up with the West. It is not impossible that we may even win the race in the future."

    In 2010, a team at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) surprised the world with a demonstration of quantum computing inside a diamond.

    A nitrogen atom inside the diamond was used to perform quantum computing at room temperature.

    Professor Hu Lei, a cryptologist at the State Key Laboratory of Information Security, said that no encryption method in existence today could resist an attack by a quantum computer, and that Chinese cryptologists were already preparing for the quantum age.

    "Though it is difficult to build a defence without an enemy in sight, it will be too late to start if the first quantum computer appears on the horizon," he said.

    "Quite a few research projects have been launched to develop quantum cryptology."

    But professor Zhao Hongwu, a researcher with the CAS Institute of Physics on qubit storage materials and technology, said the first quantum computer could still be decades, perhaps even centuries, away.

    He said China should adopt a long-term view.

    "The government has invested in many approaches today because none of the present ones looks particularly promising," he said.

    "It is very likely that more than 99 per cent of research will end up in failure. But the work must be done, or we will never know which method works."

    China in race to build first code-breaking quantum supercomputer | South China Morning Post
     
  2. cirr

    cirr ELITE MEMBER

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    China takes on U.S. in quest to be first to create a quantum computer

    It would be able to break the vast majority of encryption currently used online, including that which protects email, banking and online shopping

    By Chris Hall | Yahoo News – 15 hours ago

    China is working on building a quantum computer to rival the one being constructed by the U.S.'s National Security Agency, in what promises to be a high-stakes race in cryptology technology over the next decade.

    The Chinese government has announced that it is backing at least 90 separate projects aimed at developing the world's first fully-functional quantum computer. According to the South China Post, officials in Beijing are prepared to spend any amount of money to realise this goal.

    Physicist Wang Hoahua, whose work at Zhejiang University centres around developing a quantum computer from superconducting materials told the paper that: "The value of the quantum computer to the military and government is so great, its cost has never been considered."

    One avenue of quantum experimentation involves generating enormously strong magnetic fields. Beijing has already built a three-storey facility entitled the Steady High Magnetic Field Experimental Facility on Hefei Science Island, in Anhui province.

    The facility is capable of generating the world's most powerful magnetic field. Just as standard computing relies on the manipulation of 'bits', quantum computing uses 'qubits'. Strong magnetic field make the qubits easier to separate and control.

    Mr Hoahua also said that: "Many Chinese scientists abroad, such as myself, have been attracted by the rapid technological development in China and are returning home. We hope to help China catch up with the West. It is not impossible that we may even win the race in the future."

    The owner of a quantum computer would be able to break the vast majority of encryption currently used online, including that which protects email, banking and online shopping.

    Currently, those systems are protected by a variety of methods all commonly known as 'public key encryption'. Their security hinges on the difficulty of working out which two large prime numbers multiply to give an even larger number. In such a system, the resulting number is known but not the prime numbers which are used to create it.

    A quantum computer would possess the power needed to perform that calculation in a reasonably short time, rendering vulnerable 99.9 per cent of private information and financial transactions on the internet.

    To date, computer scientists have succeeded in cracking a 768-bit key code for one of the most popular standards of public key encryption, RSA, but that took over two years and hundreds of computers. It is estimated that it would take 1,000 times longer to break a 1,024-bit code, which is the minimum standard used by most companies online.

    A quantum computer could break this code in a much shorter time.

    Files released by Edward Snowden to the Washington Post revealed that the NSA is also working on a quantum computer. The project has been given a $79.7m budget, and is part of a larger initiative called 'Penetrating Hard Targets'.

    Snowden's files disclose that the NSA's efforts to master quantum computing take place inside large metal boxes - called Faraday cages - which insulate their contents from outside interference. While the best way to construct a quantum computer is still the subject of debate, one well-known principle is that it is highly unstable and vulnerable to electronic interference.

    Despite reports that quantum computers exist - in particular, the ones made by D-Wave and sold to Google - most scientists agree that these are not fully capable quantum devices, and do not surpass conventional computers' performance.

    Other projects to complete a quantum computer are being funded by the EU and by the Swiss government.

    China takes on U.S. in quest to be first to create a quantum computer - Yahoo News UK
     
  3. Kolaps

    Kolaps FULL MEMBER

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    It's just a hope to be the first.

    A hope, a wet dream, not a real progress in reality.

    To be honest, China is really lack behind from US and Europe, since it's just started now.