Overcoming the Challenges of Scientific Instrumentation for Quantum Computing Research

Bruno Kung

Previous instrumentation for quantum computing is no longer sustainable or suitable. Zurich Instruments has recently launched several new products with specific features and functions for quantum computing including the HDAWG Arbitrary Waveform Generator.

In this interview, Bruno Küng, from Zurich Instruments talks to AZoQuantum about the future developments within Quantum Computing, NMR, Spectroscopy and Semiconductor applications and how their new line of products can help aid these industries.

How can the test and measurement industry contribute to the advances of quantum computing?

The number of large quantum computing aiming at building a quantum computer or quantum simulator has grown rapidly in the last few years. Teams at Google, TU Delft, ETH Zurich, IBM use the superconducting qubit technology and put dozens of qubits on a single chip and get a working design.

For the trapped ions technology, systems with 10-20 qubits exist since a while, but only more recent on-chip trap designs and ion shuttling techniques make it practical to scale the number of qubits higher up.

Operating one of these larger quantum processors today typically requires 50 or more signal generation channels. This is significantly more than what previously available instruments were designed for.

They pose significant limitations in terms of space, are difficult to control while the technical specification do not match all the application requirements. Finally, they are simply too expensive.

HDAWG High-Density Arbitrary Waveform Generator

How does Zurich Instruments address all these limitations?

We harvest today’s possibilities in digital signal processing in order to combine more functionality into one piece of hardware, in particular more signal channels, more parallel processing, and more real-time links between signal generation and acquisition.

This is very well in line with what quantum computing researchers need in order to manage the growing complexity of their experiments. While meeting all the technical specs we aim to support efficient workflows and keep the cost of ownership low.

What are the further trends driving the industry?

On the hardware side, control electronics will get integrated more strongly with the quantum processor relying on specialized ASICs and newly developed cryogenic microwave components in order to keep the size of the electronics stack at bay.

There’s also lots of development at the software level at the top, to enable programmers to work on these new processors without having to worry about the engineering below.

HDAWG Arbitrary Waveform Generator

Please tell us about the range of products you have recently launched for quantum computing?

In 2016, we launched the UHFAWG, an instrument that combines qubit control and measurement in one stackable unit. It enables qubit measurements right out of the box and is ideal for projects on up to, say, 3 qubits.

This product was developed in close collaboration with researchers at ETH Zurich, and we built on that experience and network to extend our collaboration with TU Delft.

Just recently, we launched the HDAWG Arbitrary Waveform Generator. It was designed to support the ambitious project of the teams at ETH and TU Deft to realize the Surface-17 quantum processor.

What are the practical advantages for the quantum researchers and engineers?

Researchers running a large QC experiment need to be sure signals arrive at the chip with precise timing, undistorted, and can be rapidly reconfigured during the qubit calibration. Our AWGs address these points specifically: the Multi-Device Synchronization feature provides a ready solution for timing alignment and system monitoring.

Waveform pre-compensation allows the user to gain control over the signal shape at the sample by suppressing sources of distortion along the signal path. Finally, our LabOne AWG Sequencer is designed to generate long signals with a minimum of waveform memory and thus can be updated quickly. This is achieved with digital modulation, dynamic sampling, parametric delays, and other features.


How do other applications benefit from these advances?

Researchers in NMR spectroscopy will love the digital modulation, enabling them to generate pulse sequences many seconds long at up to 750 MHz without running into memory limitations, or losing time uploading waveforms.

Semiconductor testing engineers will be impressed by how straightforward it is to design long and complex testing signals and achieve timing synchronization between signal generation and acquisition using our high-level programming language SeqC.

How is it different to program an AWG using this language SeqC, compared to the conventional way?

SeqC is the only AWG programming language that makes standard programming features like loops, conditional commands, etc. available for AWG sequencing. Things like tuning a pulse delay on the fly, or implementing a conditional feedback on a bistable device, or to loop over a waveform parameter are only a few lines of code.

Conventional AWG programming is using simple command tables in an “Excel style” which makes the implementation of advanced sequences often cumbersome or even impossible.

SeqC is the only AWG programming language that makes standard programming features like loops, conditional commands, etc. available for AWG sequencing.

What does the HDAWG mean for the future?

The HDAWG is one key element in our product pipeline that will continue to support the progress in quantum computing. Our goal is to provide a system architecture that is scalable to several 100 channels and that covers the full stack of hardware and software, including real-time system control.

We are constantly exploring new technologies on the market to give our customers access to higher frequencies, better signal quality, and more powerful data processing. I’m thoroughly impressed by the achievements of the people in the quantum computing field and we’re thrilled to be part of it!

Where can our readers go to find out more?

Our HDAWG and UHFAWG videos are great to learn more about our products in a few minutes. If you like your facts and figures in writing, check our website which includes a lot of application-related content. Or just give us a call!

About Bruno Küng

Dr Bruno Küng obtained his PhD degree at the ETH Zurich, Switzerland, on single-electron thermodynamics in nanoelectronic devices.

Bruno KungBruno then worked as a post-doc at Institut Néel, Grenoble, on a superconducting qubit design to accelerate the readout.

Bruno joined Zurich Instruments in 2015. He worked on application support and business development with a special focus on quantum applications. Today he is applications manager for AWG products.



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