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Advanced quantum computing with trapped ions

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - AQTION (Advanced quantum computing with trapped ions)

Reporting period: 2020-04-01 to 2022-03-31

Humanity is creating more and more data, yet the computational power of classical computers is stalling. The speed of processors has hardly increased in recent years, while state-of-the-art problems in logistics, drug design, power distribution and many other areas hunger for computers that can solve next-generation problems.
Quantum computers promise to address some of these areas, ranging from machine learning, via finance to material design. Quantum computers offer a speed-up over classical computers to the point that they can solve problems that cannot be addressed by any classical computer. For this reason, several international entities try to realize these next-generation computing devices. Whoever can build such devices, will be ahead of other nations and may control who can find solutions for certain problems. It is therefore of strategic interest to have “our own” quantum computer.
The AQTION project addresses this goal by building a European quantum computer, using a European supply chain, to ensure that the coming quantum technology revolution will be centered on Europe. Our consortium spans the range from academic research (University of Innsbruck – UIBK, ETH Zuerich – ETH, Oxford University – OXF, University of Mainz – UMZ, University of Madrid - UCM, and Research Center Juelich - FZJ) to innovation centers (such as Fraunhofer IOF), as well as from small-scale companies (Gigatronik was acquired in the meantime by AKKA) via ME companies (such as Toptica - TOP) to large-scale corporations (such as ATOS Bull).
The versatile AQTION consortium is building a quantum computer based on storing individual charged atoms and manipulating them with laser light. The main objectives and challenges here include realizing such a device based on industry-standards such as 19’’ racks to ensure that it can be readily installed in data centers and integrated into high-performance computing infrastructure. The quantum processor at the heart of the AQTION device supports up to 50 quantum-bits (or qubits), which will enable it to perform operations that can hardly be cross-checked with any classical computer world-wide.
The key challenge is to realize such a device in a scalable fashion. On the hardware side, this goal requires us to realize scalable control electronics, means of building a quantum processor with reproducible performance, sophisticated laser control and beam manipulation to extend towards hundreds of qubits, and the preparation of an interface for the creation of networks of quantum computers. On the software side, it requires the implementation of a standardized interface, ideally via the cloud, the integration of and compatibility with quantum software development kits as well as with classical high-performance computing facilities, and the realization of a suite of quantum algorithms spanning from error correction to user applications.
We proudly report that all of these objectives have been addressed at a proof-of-concept level and in agreement with the project schedule.
Starting from scratch, two 19’’ racks have been set up in the laboratories in Innsbruck. This first-of-its-kind system has been filled with lasers, laser reference systems, light distribution, vacuum chambers and an ion-trap. The entire system is powered from a single wall-mounted power plug. These efforts have been complemented by the development and extension of ion-trap quantum processor production, sophisticated control electronics, and ion-addressing capabilities. The control software already includes cloud-access to the device and supports quantum software development kits such as cirq, qiskit, pytket, quest and Atos QLM. Furthermore, several algorithms spanning the range from quantum error correction to variational optimizations have been prepared and are available as a suite.
Prior to the AQTION project, no quantum computer was rack-mountable and compatible with industrial standards. Furthermore, the processor supports the largest number of quantum software development kits from various entities, and is the first device that was available to selected partners via the cloud in Europe. By the end of the project, AQTION successfully demonstrated remote entanglement between quantum processors, a universal gate-set for logical qubits, a programmable quantum sensor operating at the limits of what physics allows, and implement proof-of-concept use-cases ranging from finance to security.
The AQTION project therefore ensures that Europe will maintain and extend its leadership in quantum technologies. In particular, the services and products developed within the project, already now, improve the European strategic position in the race for commercial applications of quantum computers. Furthermore, the devices will serve as training ground for a next generation of quantum-aware engineers and computer-scientists that will be a highly sought-after workforce in the years to come.
AQTION addresses and ensures the supply of European-trained quantum experts, and will have a significant long-term impact on societal and economic metrics with its research and innovation resulting in products, services, and training capabilities.