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D-Wave, the only commercial quantum computer company, has opened new labs in British Columbia. The firm has sold quantum computers, which promise to radically speed up complex problem solving, to both Google and NASA.

The 40,000 square foot facility has been upgraded and retrofitted over the last year to support the work of the maverick venture-funded startup. This year, the company created the second generation of its quantum computer, D-Wave 2, and set up a manufacturing deal with a silicon fab which ensures the firm can develop even faster computers as well as building up a possible market for them

Quantum computers offer a massive speed-up over conventional computers because they make use of the fact that quantum systems exist in multiple states at the same time, an effect made famous by Schrodinger’s cat paradox, in which a cat sealed in a box away from all interactions, can be simultaneously alive and dead.

Quantum computers can process multiple inputs at the same time – effectively in parallel universes – and determine which is the right answer to problems which have huge numbers of possible solutions, as long as their quantum bits (qubits) can be kept in a coherent state, isolated from the outside world.

So far, quantum computers are mostly the domain of scientific research, with centres like Bristol producing systems that have a few quantum bits (qubits) made using photons. Mostly these are used for scientific research around the concepts of quantum computing.

D-Wave has taken a different approach. Backed by around $100 million of venture capital, it has built systems using qubits created through spin in superconducting magnets. While academics struggle to make handfuls of qubits, D-Wave has put together the D-Wave 2 machine, which has 512 qubits, and claims that it solves real-world problems faster than any other option available.

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