Mini quantum computers are coming soon
Quantum computers still require large, dedicated rooms and complex installation, but in a new step towards getting the technology out of the lab, researchers have designed a prototype quantum computer small enough to fit in regular data center racks. As part of an EU-funded project called AQTION, a group of scientists from the University of Innsbruck in Austria has successfully built a fully functional quantum computer in 19-inch server racks, as is typically found in data centers around the world. The device requires only one wall-mounted power plug and is otherwise self-contained.
The prototype is an exciting development in an industry that relies mostly on lab-based applications, where quantum computers can only be controlled thanks to purpose-built infrastructure. As a result, the development of a suite of accessible quantum computers is key to scaling up the technology.
That's why the European Union recently launched AQTION, a €10 million project aimed at creating a miniature quantum computer that meets industry standards without the need for a super-stable lab environment to operate.
Typically, quantum computing experiments fill our 30- to 50-square-meter labs, says Thomas Munz, AQTION Project Coordinator. We were now looking to fit the technologies developed here in Innsbruck into the smallest possible space while meeting commonly used industry standards.
The research team explained that the new device shows that quantum computers will soon be ready for use in data centers. The researchers used ions, which are single-charged atoms, as qubits. Quantum information is encoded in the electronic state of the ions, and operations are performed with laser pulses that modulate and control the state of the particles.
While this approach differs from the well-known superconducting qubits that IBM and Google use in quantum computers, miniature devices are gaining interest in the industry.
And to fit two 19-inch shelves. Each individual building block of AQTION's quantum computer had to be reduced in size. The biggest challenge was ensuring that performance was not compromised. But the researchers are confident that their prototype offers promising results. Even outside the controlled environment that can be achieved in the laboratory, the device was stable enough to operate without interruption from external disturbances.
The physicists were able to individually control and entangle up to 24 ions. Measurements showed that system performance and error rate were on par with laboratory-based applications.
By next year, the team expects to create a device with up to 50 qubits that can be individually controlled. The hardware and software capabilities of the prototype are currently being upgraded before they are made available online.
The researchers access the device via the cloud to test quantum algorithms via a hardware-less quantum computing language.