Quantum computing startup eyes mainstream adoption

Quantum computing has enormous potential but incredible complexities. While zealots claim it will cure cancer and save the planetcritics warn that their promises are far from being fulfilled.

One of their key challenges lies at the very core of the field: quantum bits or “qubits”. These units of information are the quantum analogue of binary bits in classical computers. To make quantum computers useful, the qubits must be reliably controlled and produced at scale.

It’s a requirement that still baffles the world’s leading computer scientists. The likes of IBM and Google have made impressive strides in building quanta into their quantum chips, which must obey the laws of quantum physics at temperatures near absolute zero.

One 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 cause computing errors.

Oxford Ionica startup based in Great Britain, 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 on a traditional microchipwhich create magnetic fields in the surrounding space.

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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 do a computation. To stabilize them, one of their electrons is removed to make an ion. These ions have an electrical charge that allows the electromagnetic field to “capture” them less than a hair’s breadth above a chip.

“We have perfect qubits.

Dr. Chris Balance, who co-founded Oxford Ionics in 2019, compares the effect to toys that use magnets suspend objects in the air.

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“This gives us the best of both worlds: we have a chip that can be made just like a normal computer processor and that can run at room temperature, and we have perfect qubits made of single ions floating above the chip,” Balance says to TNW. . “Not building the qubits means we can’t build them wrong. Nature guarantees that each individual atom is perfectly identical to any other.”

Dr Tom Harty and Dr Chris Ballance founded Oxford Ionics