Microsoft milestone brings it a bit closer to quantum supercomputer

22 Jun 2023

Image: © James Thew/

Long under the radar of Microsoft scientists, the Majorana particle is a crucial step in the software giant’s quantum computing dreams.

Microsoft says it has reached a new milestone in its journey towards creating a quantum supercomputer that can help solve some of humanity’s most complex problems.

In a detailed announcement yesterday (21 June), Microsoft described how it has achieved a breakthrough in fundamental physics by demonstrating the ability to create and control Majorana quasiparticles.

The US software giant presented the peer-reviewed data in a journal by the American Physical Society, where it describes the underlying science behind creating the new kind of qubit – the building blocks of quantum computing – that is more stable than traditional ones.

Majorana is an elusive particle that has long attracted attention from Microsoft scientists for its property of being stable – which leads to fewer errors in quantum computing.

With its latest findings, Microsoft believes it has completed the first of a six-step plan to creating a quantum supercomputer. The next step is to work on hardware-protected qubits that will eventually lead to a resilient quantum system, a precursor to a quantum computer.

“A quantum supercomputer will be able to solve problems that are intractable on a classical computer and scale to solve the most complex problems facing our world,” the announcement reads.

“To do this, it must be both performant and reliable. Customers need to understand how capable a quantum system is of solving real problems, from the machine to the network overhead. That’s why measuring a supercomputer can’t be about counting physical or logical qubits.”

Quantum supercomputer in the next decade

And the next steps can be achieved sooner than one might think.

Microsoft vice-president of advanced quantum development Krysta Svore told TechCrunch that the company believes that it will take less than 10 years to build a quantum supercomputer using these qubits –  which can perform a reliable 1m quantum operations per second.

“Today, we’re really at this foundational implementation level. We have noisy intermediate-scale quantum machines. They’re built around physical qubits and they’re not yet reliable enough to do something practical and advantageous in terms of something useful,” Svore explained.

“The next level we need to get to as an industry is the resilient level. We need to be able to operate not just with physical qubits, but we need to take those physical qubits and put them into an error-correcting code and use them as a unit to serve as a logical qubit.”

Alongside the Majorana news, Microsoft also introduced some advances in its Azure Quantum cloud service for quantum computing, including a copilot and Azure Quantum Elements. More details on them are in the video below.

While quantum theory is now almost 100 years old, the race to build a working quantum computer is a more recent phenomenon with big names such as IBM, Intel and Google all throwing their hats in the ring.

Last week, Intel unveiled a 12-qubit quantum chip called Tunnel Falls that it intends to make available to the academic community through universities and federal research labs to foster innovation in quantum computing.

“It’s a pinnacle achievement of the human race,” Prof Séamus Davis, who was recently awarded the prestigious Buckley Prize in the US, told recently in an interview as part of the Creating the Future series.

“And although many of us don’t realise it, much of our civilisation depends on our control of quantum mechanics already. It’s critically important.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic