Greatest science news of 2021: Jian-Wei Pan leads China’s quantum computing mission to two key quantum supremacy successes

In July, the University of Science and Technological innovation of China announced it had surpassed Google’s claimed quantum supremacy accomplishment. China’s bold quantum computing attempts are all under the oversight of a single person, Jian-Wei Pan


15 December 2021


GOVERNMENTS and corporations all over the planet are racing to build a practical quantum personal computer, and the stakes are as high as the R&D budgets. This kind of a machine could crack encryption broad open up, raise the energy of synthetic intelligence and help build distinctive resources and medications.

A massive participant in the industry is China, which has a centralised and incredibly perfectly-funded govt project hoovering up talent, all beneath the oversight of 1 gentleman: Jian-Wei Pan.

The similar words crop up repeatedly when you go over Pan with all those who know him: reserved, targeted, pushed and dazzling. He is normally referred to as the “father of quantum”.

He attended the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) in 1987 and later on the University of Vienna in Austria for his doctorate, ultimately returning to USTC to operate a person of the greatest and most thriving quantum investigate groups in the entire world. In Vienna, he worked under the distinguished physicist Anton Zeilinger, who later on explained: “I just can’t consider the emergence of quantum engineering with no Jian-Wei Pan.”

Gregor Weihs at the University of Innsbruck, also in Austria, labored with Pan in Vienna and remembers his time there. “Initially he did not have any experimental working experience, but it was evident that he understood quantum physics superior than any of us, and experienced incredibly creative tips,” he says.

“He was undoubtedly driven and motivated to make more substantial items,” claims Thomas Jennewein at the University of Waterloo in Canada, who also worked with Pan in Vienna and aided him set up a new quantum exploration lab at USTC in 2002.

Following returning to China, Pan had a meteoric increase. He was elected to the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2011, its youngest ever member, and the Earth Academy of Sciences the adhering to yr. He grew to become vice-president of USTC in 2014.

Pan’s perform has yielded large final results – it has been cited in nearly 50,000 other scientific papers – and has in flip led to a ton of govt financial commitment. A quantum laboratory that was opened at USTC in 2020 price a described $10 billion. This kind of backing has yielded significant success of late.

Tech giants and study groups close to the world have been in a race to outdo each individual other when it comes to quantum supremacy, the level at which a quantum laptop or computer can resolve a challenge that is not possible for classical pcs. In July 2021, USTC introduced it experienced surpassed Google’s claimed quantum supremacy achievement by fixing a dilemma three orders of magnitude more challenging than that performed by Google’s Sycamore device. In September, USTC bested its very own benchmark by another 3 orders of magnitude.

USTC is producing fantastic strides in quantum interaction too. It a short while ago unveiled that the world’s premier metropolitan quantum community – which includes banks, universities and government properties across the city of Hefei in China – has been functioning for just about three years. In 2016, USTC put the to start with quantum satellite into orbit, demonstrating unhackable communications with ground stations on Earth.

Pan’s affect in Chinese science is substantial and growing. He is the vice-chair of the Jiusan Culture, a minor political bash that serves as a form of assume tank on scientific and instructional issues.

It remains to be noticed which region or corporation will be to start with to create a functional quantum personal computer, but Pan and USTC seem most likely to continue being at the centre of this industry for the close to long term.

2021 in critique

This was a calendar year of tackling great troubles, from the covid-19 pandemic to climate adjust. But 2021 was also loaded in scientific discoveries and big advancements.

Far more on these matters: