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Google made news recently with its pre-publication research paper about time crystals and quantum computing. The paper has not been peer reviewed yet but the discovery has the potential to add stability to quantum hardware. This work is still deep in the laboratory but other advancements in quantum computing are pushing the field even closer to production.

Researchers from Google, Stanford, Princeton and other institutions explain in the research paper how they used quantum computing to create a time crystal. Another group of researchers submitted a paper in early July that claimed to do the same thing with a diamond.

A time crystal defines the second law of thermodynamics, which says that disorder always increases. This object is predictable in that it flips back and forth—reliably—between two states. Also, a time crystal doesn’t use any energy during these transformations.

SEE: Quantum computing: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

Time crystals break another rule called the time-translation symmetry. This rule holds that a stable object stays the same over time. As Natalie Wolchover explained in a Quanta agazine article, “The time crystal is the first ‘out-of-equilibrium’ phase (of matter): It has order and perfect stability despite being in an excited and evolving state.”

This new research paper is only the very first step in actually making time crystals a reality and scientists aren’t exactly sure what to do with these perpetual motion machines.

QC investments headed toward $800M this year

Although the time crystal element of quantum computing is still in an embryonic phase, hardware and software to run the actual quantum machines are becoming more of a reality every day. According to PitchBook Data, quantum computing companies secured $770.3 million in venture capital funds in 2020. That number was $288.3 in 2019. Boston Consulting Group predicts that investments could reach $800 million this year. The firm predicts that quantum computing will generate $850 billion in annual value by 2040.

In July, PsiQuantum announced a giant $450M funding round for building a commercially viable quantum computer. The company plans to use the money to build a 1 million-quantum-bit machine.

IonQ went public earlier this year with an initial valuation of $2 billion.

Rigetti Computing, which develops hardware and software for quantum computers, closed a C round last August of $79 million.

There have been other significant technical advancements also, beyond time crystals.

On Tuesday, Cambridge Quantum and Tecnologico de Monterrey along with IDB Lab announced they have developed a cryptographic layer to protect blockchain networks from the security threat posed by quantum computer development. According to the company, transactions and communications were protected with quantum-proof keys from CQ’s IronBridge platform, which uses quantum computers to generate certified entropy. The post-quantum cryptography later was developed on the LACChain Besu blockchain network, which is based on Ethereum.

SEE: Quantum entanglement-as-a-service: “The key technology” for unbreakable networks (TechRepublic)

Honeywell and Cambridge Quantum also announced in late July three scientific and technical milestones that demonstrate the viability of large-scale quantum computing and show that quantum-enabled solutions for optimization are closer than expected.

These accomplishments included:

  • Repeated rounds of real-time quantum error correction
  • A quantum volume of 1,024
  • A new quantum algorithm that uses fewer qubits to solve optimization problems

Nir Minerbi, CEO and co-founder of the quantum software company Classiq, believes that quantum computing could become a part of day-to-day business operations as soon as 2023, specifically in the finance, supply chain, biochemistry and pharmaceutical industries.

Minerbi said that the problem is that quantum software is not keeping up with hardware.

“Existing quantum development is done at the qubit and gate level, similar in concept to connecting wires in a large telephone switchboard of many years ago,” he said. “For the quantum revolution to really take off, organizations need to make quantum computing accessible to domain-specific experts and adapt development methods that work for hundreds, thousands of qubits and beyond.”

Building out the quantum ecosystem

Matt Langione, a BCG principal and one of the report’s authors, predicted a significant surge in institutional and corporate investment in quantum technology.

“The critical change since we last surveyed the market two years ago is the rise of corporate interest and investment. That was the last domino to fall after governments and equity investors began investing heavily,” Langione said in a press release.

Gartner research predicts that 20% of companies will have a quantum computing budget by 2023, as compared to only 1% in 2018.

Another boost to the sector is the $250 billion U.S. Innovation and Competition Act which designates quantum information science and technology as one of ten key focus areas for the National Science Foundation.