Quantum computing may be the most profoundly world-changing technology uncovered to date – it could bring about revolutionary transformations in climate, energy and healthcare. A quantum computer has the power to unlock commercial value in scenarios where current compute power is a constraint. Such a machine would also foster a new wave of developments in quantum algorithms in chemistry, materials, and other domains.
Google made news last year at the time when it published details about its quantum computing accomplishments. Google’s double-digit qubit machine attained a milestone in the field, computing in only three minutes a calculation that would take a conventional supercomputer 10,000 years.
A new quantum computer under development is slated to have 1 million qubits – significantly more powerful than Google’s most recent milestone. Google’s supercomputer currently has 53 qubits.
PsiQuantum, a startup building a scalable, fault-tolerant, silicon photonic quantum computer, joins the M12 portfolio. M12 is Microsoft’s venture fund. The company has raised $215 million from investors, with participation from BlackRock Advisors, Founders Fund, Atomico and Redpoint Ventures.
After spending over 10 years advancing the field in academia, they launched the company in 2015. Jeremy O’Brien (CEO), Terry Rudolph, Pete Shadbolt (CSO), and Mark Thompson (CTO) of PsiQuantum are focused on building photonic qubits with well-established semiconductor techniques and material substrates.
“A useful quantum computer requires at least a million qubits,” says the website of the company.
If true, the computer would be incredibly more powerful than machines being developed by Google, IBM, Honeywell, and others.
What’s Different In PsiQuantum’s Approach?
While researchers have been working on different techniques of generating qubits, the startup is taking advantage of light photons. Photons are beamed down on silicon, and small partly reflective mirrors push the photons into a unique state of entanglement. Quantum forces can then be used to bind qubits that enhance their forces. A sensor within the system then gauges the photons and all the computers to process a calculation.
One of the technological hurdles to overcome before we have full-fledged Quantum Computers is to detect and mitigate these noises from our computation and reverse them. That is the challenge of Error Correction.
PsiQuantum aims to achieve it with a photonics-based substrate and a quantum computing architecture that is well-suited to the advantages of photonics. It is worth noting that PsiQuantum’s approach is different from Microsoft’s efforts in topological qubits (Microsoft’s approach would enable error correction in hardware via topological protection from local noise). PsiQuantum and Microsoft have different sets of engineering challenges to address with their distinct strategies, but the companies share the vision for a scalable, fault-tolerant quantum computer.
Their properties enable quantum computers to gain a quantum speedup, which increases exponentially as further qubits are added to the system.
But, the company also refused to distribute academic papers that can be evaluated for the technology claims. But, the investors stand behind the company and trust its claims.
While PsiQuantum has yet to publish academic papers that can be peer-reviewed, O’Brien revealed a blueprint of a quantum computer at the World Economic Forum in 2016.
“While it’s enticing to imagine the benefits and opportunities of a quantum computer, PsiQuantum isn’t distracted by what’s beyond the finish line. They are disciplined and focused on the task at hand: delivering on a machine with hundreds of error-corrected, logical qubits. We at M12 have been impressed by the PsiQuantum team and look forward to their continued development,” wrote Samir Kumar, GM & Managing Director at M12- Microsoft’s Venture Fund in a blog.
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