QuEra Computing emerges with 256-qubit quantum simulator.

Emerging from stealth mode is the fledgling quantum tech company QuEra Computing, who was recently granted $17 million in funding from investors such as Japanese fintech company Rakuten and the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an R&D governmental agency credited for the development of the internet, GPS and personal computers.

While Google’s and IBM’s quantum computing systems use traditional superconducting qubits, and IonQ enlists trapped ions, QuEra’s quantum architecture takes the road less travelled.

Previously demonstrated to be a viable technique to manipulate the counter-intuitiveness of quantum mechanics for complex computations, MIT and Harvard University physicists, who founded QuEra, use lasers to arrange and direct qubits into desired positions to perform meaningful calculations.

Their new quantum simulator — a special-purpose quantum computer built for solving particular problems — boasts 256 qubits, capable of simulating quantum states more than the number of atoms in our Solar System.

Performing surgery on qubits.

Moving qubits around is no child’s play. Qubits, atomic particles made from superconductive materials such as rubidium or niobium, exhibit extreme erraticism, where even a very weak interaction with the environment can make them lose their quantum properties. And that usually leads to imprecise calculations. Some qubits are typically set aside to account for error correction. But to be able to exert more control over qubits is something highly sought after — more qubits could then be freed up to perform actual computation.

To rein in the temperamental qubits, the MIT and Harvard physicists trap arrays of neutral atoms in a vacuum chamber and freeze them in position, reaching ultra-cold temperatures of one-millionth of a degree Kelvin above absolute zero. That’s over a million times colder than deep space (3 Kelvin)! 

Like playing chinese checkers with tweezers, the physicists then meticulously position the qubits to program the quantum device, tune it to the problem under investigation, and configure it in real-time during the computation process. Ultimately, what you get is a highly programmable quantum simulator with an increased number of useful qubits.

Real-world applications on the horizon.

According to Alex Keesling, CEO of QuEra Computing, Rakuten sees the potential of quantum computing in modelling the optimal number of wireless antennas for a certain area. Performing such a task is immensely resource-intensive, as it involves simulating the millions of ways radio signals might travel and bounce off other objects such as buildings or the ground.

By enhancing qubit programmability and targeting applications in quantum optimisation and quantum simulation, QuEra is making a far-reaching step forward on tackling today’s critical but classically intractable issues in climate change, artificial intelligence, bioinformatics, and more.

With science getting better at controlling and harnessing atomic-scale qubits, it seems we are on the cusp of a true quantum revolution, where the technology is beginning to reach beyond the capabilities of classical computers.

Watch this space for the latest news and information on all things quantum!


Main Photo: Scientists fixing up the 256-qubit quantum simulator. Photo credits: QuEra Computing

By Mitchell Lim

Mitchell Lim is DUG's Scientific Content Architect. With a PhD in Chemical Engineering, Mitch is an expert in the fields of catalysis and ultrasonics. Full-time science geek, part-time fitness junkie, Mitch strives to deliver effective and engaging science communication, as he believes that easily digestible scientific perspectives have the potential to impact and benefit society at large.

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