Photo/Illutration The Riken research institute releases a domestically produced quantum computer online in Wako, Saitama Prefecture, for research purposes. (Takuya Isayama)

Japan’s first domestically produced quantum computer, developed by the Riken research institute, was released online on March 27 to allow joint researchers to access it.

“The release is not a goal, but a milestone,” said Yasunobu Nakamura, director of the Riken Center for Quantum Computing in Wako, Saitama Prefecture, who led the development of the domestically produced computer.

“The race has just begun,” he added.

There are many challenges to overcome before putting the quantum computer, considered to be the next generation of computers, into practical use, but it has the potential to change society.

The international competition to develop quantum computers is intensifying in the hopes of gaining an economic advantage and stronger national security.

Japan aims to accelerate developing related industries and human resources in the country with a focus on a domestically produced computer.

Unlike conventional computers, quantum computers use quantum mechanics, an area of physics that describes the behaviors of micro particles such as electrons and atoms, to perform calculations.

As a quantum computer can perform multiple calculations at once, it can sometimes easily solve problems that a supercomputer cannot solve even if it spends tens of thousands of years or hundreds of millions of years.

Quantum computers are expected to advance research in fields that require complex calculations, such as developing new materials and medicine, finance and artificial intelligence.

A quantum computer will also make it easier to decipher current encryptions used on the internet and in finances.

As the technology develops, there is concern that a quantum computer could be used to decode national security secrets as well. Countries such as the United States and China regard this as a security issue and are heavily investing in developing the technology.

There are various ways to create quantum computers, but Japan's domestic computer uses the superconducting method. The quantum bit, the core component of a quantum computer, is made of superconducting materials and cooled to extremely low temperatures.

Google and International Business Machines Corp. are also working on developing computers using the same method.

The Japanese government aims to achieve a quantum computer that can be widely used in practical applications in 2040 and after, but it is said that about 1 million quantum bits would be needed to create it.

The current domestic quantum computer has 64 quantum bits.

Only dozens to hundreds of quantum bits are used in quantum computers that have so far been created in the world, making practical use a long way off.

Some predictions suggest that a quantum computer could produce values of more than 100 trillion yen ($765 billion) within 15 to 30 years.

With its domestically produced quantum computer, Japan stands at the starting point of the development race.