Quantum computing has immense potential, but incredible complexity. While zealots claim it will cure cancer and save the planetcritics warn that their promises are far from being kept.
One of their greatest challenges lies at the heart of the field: quantum bits or “qubits”. These units of information are the quantum analog of binary bits in classical computers. To make quantum computers usable, the qubits must be reliably controlled and manufactured on a large scale.
It’s a requirement that still baffles the world’s leading computer scientists. Companies like IBM and Google have made impressive strides by building qubits into their quantum chips, which must obey the laws of quantum physics at temperatures near absolute zero.
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A problem with this approach is that it requires million-dollar refrigerators. Another is that only a A single atom in the wrong place on the chip can lead to miscalculations.
Oxford ionsa Beginning based in the UK, uses a different technique. The company uses a proprietary technology called Electronic Qubit Control (EQC) to control the qubits. This system applies different voltages and currents to a conventional microchipthat generate magnetic fields in the surrounding space.
The quantum bits in this system are made up of individual atoms. In their natural state, these atoms don’t tend to stay still long enough to perform a calculation. To stabilize them, one of their electrons is stripped from them to create an ion. These ions have an electrical charge that allows the electromagnetic field to less than “capture” them. A hair’s breadth above a chip.
“We have perfect qubits.
dr Chris Balance, co-founder of Oxford Ionics in 2019, compares the effect with Toys that use magnets levitate objects in the air.
“It gives us the best of both worlds: we have a chip that can be made exactly like a regular computer processor and that can run at room temperature, and we have perfect qubits of single ions floating above the chip,” Balance told TNW . “Not building the qubits means we can’t build them wrong. Nature guarantees that every single atom is perfectly identical to every other one.”
Ballance (right) and Tom Hardy founded Oxford Ionics after earning a PhD in Quantum Computing from Oxford University: Oxford Ionics
Unlike other “trapped ion” exponents, Oxford Ionics does not rely on lasers to control qubits. According to Balance, laser-controlled devices are effective for small systems but extremely difficult to manufacture and integrate at chip scale. They also become error-prone as the size of the processor and the number of qubits grows.
In tests, the Oxford Ionics system has shown seemingly superior results. The technology currently holds a Range from records Ballance’s research was also cited in the for the performance, speed and error rates of quantum computers scientific publication accompanying this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics.
These achievements have caught the attention of investors. Last week, Oxford Ionics announced it had raised £30m in Series A funding to be used to grow the team and bring the technology to market.
“We are entering the discovery phase.
Balance now looks forward to solving real-world problems.
“In the next few years we will enter the discovery phase of quantum computing: until now we have not had quantum computers that solve problems that we cannot solve in any other way – now we do!”
Balance doesn’t expect that Integrating Quantum Ionics technology into general purpose chips. Instead, he sees the company’s quantum chips parallel to classic semiconductors.
“Think GPUs alongside CPUs,” he says.
It may probably be years before killer apps emergebut Oxford Ionics could bring quantum computing closer to the mainstream.