Quantum Motion, a UK-based quantum computing startup led by academics from UCL and Oxford University, has made a breakthrough that radically advances the viability and production of quantum computers. Quantum Motion has been able to demonstrate state of the art quantum capabilities using industrial-grade silicon chips, helping to set a blueprint for how quantum chips can be manufactured at scale using existing manufacturing processes. The discovery has been peer reviewed in the scientific journal PRX Quantum.
The discovery changes the dynamics in the development of quantum computing, showing that it is possible to build devices at scale using established processes and fabrication plants. This contrasts with other industry approaches that are looking at totally new manufacturing processes or even newly discovered particles. This potentially makes quantum computing development quicker and more cost effective.
A quantum computer harnesses some of the deepest laws of physics, normally seen only at the atomic and subatomic level, giving it unique powers to model the natural world. Quantum computers could be more powerful than today’s super computers and capable of performing complex calculations that are otherwise practically impossible. While the applications of quantum computing differ from traditional computers, they will enable us to be more accurate and faster in hugely challenging areas such as drug development and tackling climate change, as well as more everyday problems that have huge numbers of variables – just as in nature – such as transport and logistics.
“We’re hacking the process of creating qubits, so the same kind of technology that makes the chip in a smartphone can be used to build quantum computers,” said John Morton, Professor of Nanoelectronics at UCL and co-founder of Quantum Motion. “It has taken 70 years for transistor development to reach where we are today in computing and we can’t spend another 70 years trying to invent new manufacturing processes to build quantum computers. We need millions of qubits and an ultra-scalable architecture for building them, our discovery gives us the blueprint to shortcut our way to industrial scale quantum chip production.”
The peer reviewed paper demonstrates that Quantum Motion has been able to isolate and measure the quantum state of a single electron for a period of nine seconds on a CMOS chip. The chips were manufactured at CEA Leti, a large microelectronics facility in Grenoble, France. Qubits, the building blocks of quantum computers, are often realised using exotic technologies such as superconductors or individually trapped atoms. The big breakthrough is the proof that it is possible to create a stable qubit on a standard silicon chip, like those found in any smartphone, rather than one specially created in a lab environment. Combined this creates the potential for stable and scalable quantum computing.
The experiments were performed by Virginia Ciriano Tejel, a PhD student working in a low-temperature laboratory at UCL, and co-workers. During operation, the chips are kept in a refrigerated state, cooled to a fraction of a degree above absolute zero (−273 degrees Celsius).
Virginia described the eureka moment, “Every physics student learns in textbooks that electrons behave like tiny magnets with weird quantum properties, but nothing prepares you for the feeling of wonder in the lab, being able to watch this ‘spin’ of a single electron with your own eyes, sometimes pointing up, sometimes down. It’s thrilling to be a scientist trying to understand the world and at the same time be part of the development of quantum computers.”
Quantum Motion was founded in 2017 and has raised £8million in series A funding, led by INKEF capital, a Dutch based venture capital company. The round was supported by new investors Octopus Ventures and the National Security Strategic Investment Fund (NSSIF) as well as existing investors Oxford Sciences Innovation, Parkwalk Advisors and IP Group plc.