May 17, 2019

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With atoms and lasers, IonQ makes a quantum computing leap


Startup IonQ is taking a decidedly sci-fi approach to quantum computing, using atoms to store information, along with sophisticated lasers to retrieve and process that data.

IonQ expects to deliver by year’s end its first cloud-based services from what it claims will be the industry’s fastest quantum computer.

The startup, based in College Park, Md., recently released the results of two benchmark tests published on Cornell University’s Quantum Physics site that showed its upcoming system is capable of solving more complex problems with a higher degree of accuracy than any other results published by competitive systems.

The qubits used in the IonQ system are individual atoms of the element ytterbium that store the information. The information can be processed and retrieved from the atoms using sophisticated lasers, a method  company executives refer to as ion trapping.

Companies like IBM and Google use silicon chips to create their qubits, which require expensive control systems to keep temperatures close to absolute zero. The IonQ system’s technology, however, allows the machine to operate in room temperatures. And while silicon has the advantage of being a mature technology, vendors are still struggling to make their systems more stable and to reduce the number of errors caused by noise.

IonQ officials said its system also has issues with noise, but those issues largely have to do with the mechanical parts of the machine’s control systems. Company executives believe those issues can be resolved through a straightforward trial-and-error process by isolating them down one by one.

“In all the places in the system where we have noise and errors, they are known to us,” said Stewart Allen, IonQ’s founder and chief product officer. “There is nothing involving the quantum computing technology we are trying to improve upon. It’s all in the control systems.”

Because the system doesn’t require a temperature-controlled environment, IT shops can bring it on premises. But Allen said he doesn’t expect that to happen for some time and initially will deliver quantum capabilities to users as cloud-based services.

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[Originally posted by TechTarget — May 17, 2019]