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Los Alamos National Laboratory just ordered a new quantum computer

Los Alamos National Laboratory is getting a powerful new computer. The lab announced today that it has ordered a D-Wave 2X quantum computer, the same model ordered by Google and NASA's Quantum AI Lab in September, as part of a larger research project into quantum annealing. It's D-Wave's most powerful computer yet, boasting over 1,000 qubits of quantum processing. Installation will be a major undertaking, requiring a processor room kept just fractions of a degree above absolute zero.

It's still unclear how Los Alamos will use the machine. Much of the plan is simply to research the machine to see how it can be applied to the lab's various projects. "As conventional computers reach their limits in terms of scaling and performance per watt, we need to investigate new technologies to support our mission," said Mark Anderson, who works in Los Alamos' Weapons Physics Directorate. "Researching and evaluating quantum annealing as the basis for new approaches to address intractable problems is an essential and powerful step, and will enable a new generation of forward thinkers to influence its evolution in a direction most beneficial to the nation."

"An essential and powerful step."

D-Wave's quantum annealling approach is still somewhat controversial among researchers, and many doubt that the 2X can produce the so-called "quantum speedup" that provides quantum computers with an advantage over regular processors. A benchmarking effort in June failed to find evidence of the speedup, although D-Wave has proposed alternate benchmarking systems that show more promise.