One of their main challenges lies at the heart of the field: quantum bits or ‘qubits’. These information units are the quantum analog of binary bits in classical computers. For quantum computers to be useful, the qubits must be reliably controlled and manufactured on a large scale.
It’s a demand that still baffles the world’s leading computer scientists. IBM and Google made impressive progress by building qubits into their quantum chips, which must obey the laws of quantum physics at temperatures around absolute zero.
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One problem with this approach is that it requires million-dollar refrigerators. Another is that just one a single atom in the wrong place on the chip can cause computational errors.
Oxford Ionicsa to start based in the UK, applies 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 traditional microchipthat create magnetic fields in the surrounding space.
The quantum bits in this system are made up of individual atoms. In their natural state, these atoms tend not to stay still long enough to perform a calculation. To stabilize them, one of their electrons is removed to make an ion. These ions have an electrical charge, so the electromagnetic field is less than able to “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 to toys that use magnets hanging objects in the air.
“This gives us the best of both worlds: we have a chip that can be made just like a normal computer processor and run at room temperature, and we’ve made perfect qubits from single ions floating above the chip,” Balance tells TNW . . “If we don’t build the qubits, we can’t build them wrong. Nature guarantees that each individual atom is perfectly identical to every other.”
Unlike other “trapped ion” exponents, Oxford Ionics doesn’t rely on lasers to control qubits. According to Balance, laser-driven devices are effective for small systems, but extremely difficult to fabricate and integrate at the chip scale. They also become error-prone as the size of the processor and the number of qubits increase.
In tests, the Oxford Ionics system has produced apparently superior results. The technology is currently holding up a range from defeated for quantum computing performance, speed, and error rates, Ballance’s research was also cited in the scientific edition that accompanied this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics.
These achievements have caught the attention of investors. Last week, Oxford Ionics announced it had raised £30 million in Series A funding, which will 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 problems.
“In the coming years, we will enter the discovery phase of quantum computing. Until now, we haven’t had quantum computers that solve problems that we can’t solve in any other way – now we do!”
Balance doesn’t expect it integrate Quantum Ionics technology into general-purpose chips. Instead, he envisions the company’s quantum chips paralleling classical semiconductors.
“In addition to CPUs, think GPUs,” he says.
It could probably be years before killer apps appearbut Oxford Ionics could bring quantum computing closer to the mainstream.