This Microsoft illustration depicts a future quantum supercomputer operating in an Azure data center. (Microsoft Image)

Microsoft says it has achieved an important physics breakthrough representing the first milestone in its long-term initiative to build a quantum supercomputer capable of solving some of the world’s most difficult problems.

A peer-reviewed paper in Physical Review B, a journal of the American Physical Society, confirmed that the company’s approach can create and control Majorana, a type of particle considered key to the future creation of scalable and stable qubits, the fundamental units of quantum information.

“It’s akin to inventing steel, leading to the launch of the Industrial Revolution,” said Krysta Svore, Microsoft’s vice president of advanced quantum development, in a video outlining the company’s quantum supercomputer roadmap.

Quantum computing uses the principles of quantum physics to process information in ways that traditional computers can’t, potentially solving complex problems much more quickly. Unlike classical bits that can be either 0 or 1, qubits can exist in multiple states at once, allowing quantum computers to perform many calculations simultaneously.

“Our goal is to compress the next 250 years of chemistry and material science progress into the next 25,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a video Wednesday introducing the company’s quantum announcements.

Nadella as far back in 2017 was identifying quantum computing, virtual and augmented reality and artificial intelligence as the three technologies he believed at the time were most likely to shape the future.

Microsoft announced the milestone along with a new service called Azure Quantum Elements, which uses AI and high-performance computing to accelerate scientific research; and an AI-powered “copilot” for its Azure Quantum service, letting researchers use natural language for difficult chemistry and materials science problems.

The company is competing against several other major tech companies pursuing quantum breakthroughs, including IBM, Google, and Amazon, in addition to quantum companies and research institutions.

The announcements build on Microsoft’s existing momentum in quantum computing with commercial partners such as Johnson Matthey and government agencies including the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

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