Researchers at Queensland’s first quantum technology startup are developing microscopic superconducting hardware critical to scaling up future quantum computer technology.
The University of Queensland’s Professor Tom Stace and Associate Professor Arkady Federov have co-founded Analog Quantum Circuits (AQC) after a decade of theoretical and experimental research on engineering quantum systems.
Professor Stace said AQC was working to commercialise microwave circulators 1000 times smaller than what is currently available.
“Commercial circulators are the size of a matchbox and we have managed to shrink them to a few tens of micrometres, which is a fraction of the width of a human hair,” Professor Stace said.
“A quantum computer is measured by the number of elementary parts called qubits, and it is estimated that at least a million of these will be needed before they become useful for complex computations.
“We’re building miniature components that will scale with the quantum computer, so companies building the rest of the system are able to incorporate our technology.”
AQC is the first superconducting quantum technology startup in Australia and its five-member team works out of the Superconducting Quantum Devices Lab at UQ’s St Lucia campus, building on work started within the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS).
The work is carried out in cryogenic dilution refrigerators that operate at minus 273 degrees Celsius, which is 100 times colder than outer space.
“Quantum hardware is exquisitely sensitive, and even the ambient electrical noise at room temperature is 10,000 times too loud, so the microwave circulator that we are building helps shield that noise,” Dr Fedorov said.
“We are developing part of the communications channel between the outside world and the quantum computer others are trying to build, so that interface technology must sustain the temperature difference between the interior and exterior of the fridge.”
The Queensland Government has announced plans to invest $76 million over the next four years through its Queensland Quantum and Advanced Technologies Strategy, which builds on the Federal Government’s National Quantum Strategy.
“A nation or organisation that has access to quantum technology will have a head start in important areas that are related to national security, computation, and communication,” Professor Stace said.
“It would be fair to describe it as a technological race and is something that requires significant investment and collaboration with close allies.
“We are leading quantum hardware development for international markets by building on the basic research that was done in Queensland with the extremely talented people we have trained.”
EQUS Director Professor Andrew White said AQC was the latest success to come out of the Centre’s Translational Research Program.
“Arkady and Tom and their team have worked very hard to translate their technology from an idea on paper, to a prototype and now to a business,” Professor White said.
“We look forward to seeing their devices in all future quantum computers.”
AQC secured $3 million in venture capital investment from Uniseed to fund further research and development.
Uniseed Investment Manager Paul Butler said AQC was a great opportunity to support Australia’s quantum strategy.