Synthetic Diamond Technology Could Make Quantum Practical

Article By : Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio

Quantum Brilliance will install a synthetic diamond-based quantum accelerator at the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre.

Quantum Brilliance will install a diamond-based quantum accelerator at the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre. Leveraging synthetic diamond technology, Quantum Brilliance is an Australian start-up supported by the Australian National University. It is working on room temperature quantum accelerators, which would render unnecessary the complex cooling and laser systems now in use. The current technology could be a window to market-ready solutions.

Marcus Doherty, chief scientific officer for Quantum Brilliance, told EE Times, “Pawsey and Quantum Brilliance will join forces with other Australian industry and researchers as part of Pawsey’s Quantum Pioneer Program to develop quantum applications in various application markets.”

The Pawsey Supercomputing Centre is named after Australian scientist Joseph Pawsey, an astronomer who worked in interferometry. The Centre conducts research in radio astronomy, energy, and engineering.

Doherty added, “Promising applications for the quantum accelerators include: massively parallelized quantum accelerators for simulating molecular dynamics, leading to major benefits for drug design, chemical synthesis, energy storge and nanotechnology; Edge computing, where quantum accelerators can be integrated in mobile devices where computing resources are limited, leading to superior image and signal processing in defense and medical facilities as well as autonomous and space technologies.”

Figure 2: Quantum Brilliance Co-Founders: Andrew Horsley, CEO; Marcus Doherty, Chief Scientific Officer; Mark Luo, Chief Operating Officer
Quantum Brilliance Co-Founders: Andrew Horsley, CEO; Marcus Doherty, Chief Scientific Officer; Mark Luo, Chief Operating Officer. Click the image above to enlarge.

Diamond for quantum computing
Diamonds may represent one of the turning points for the practical realization of quantum computers, thanks to the possibility of exploiting their imperfections on an atomic scale. These imperfections make it possible to store qubits that can be read without altering their structure, which is one of the main problems preventing quantum computers from becoming practical. In this way, it might be possible to create and use diamond-based memories capable of storing qubits.

Doherty pointed out that there are three reasons why we can use diamond to perform quantum computing in ambient conditions:

  • The remarkable properties of a particular atomic defect — the nitrogen-vacancy (NV) center. Namely, its optical electron spin initialization and readout mechanism that retains high fidelity and contrast under simple off-resonance illumination. This combined with microwave control means that it can be used to initialize, manipulate and read out high-quality nuclear spin qubits in the diamond.
  • The extreme properties and engineering of diamond. Owing to the extreme hardness and purity of synthetic diamond, there is very little noise from thermal vibrations and magnetic impurities. Consequently, there is little decoherence of the NV center’s electron spin (it has the longest coherence time of any solid-state electron spin at room temperature) and nuclear spin qubits. This enables high-fidelity operation of the computer.
  • The simplicity and robustness of room temperature microwave and broad-band optical control. This enables dramatic miniaturization of the quantum computer to something that could ultimately be the size of a GPU accelerator card.

Quantum accelerator
Building large-scale quantum devices will involve both assembling large numbers of high-quality qubits and creating reliable circuits for transmitting and manipulating quantum information between them.

In contrast to the quantum computers developed by tech giants such as Google and IBM, Quantum Brilliance’s vision is to develop quantum computing into an everyday technology that can be deployed in data centres, hospitals, mines, space and even laptops.

“Quantum Brilliance is offering an on-premises full-stack quantum computing system called the Quantum Development Kit (QDK). The QDK is a small quantum computer that meets customer demand for on-site access to quantum hardware today. The QDK is an internationally unique product and it is one of the only few quantum computers customers can physically own and host themselves. QDK lowers the barrier to entry for customers, as it operates at room temperature, lower cost, lower energy consumption and is compatible with customers’ existing rack-based data center infrastructure,” said Doherty.

Figure 1: Accelerator Quantum in a Supercomputer (Source: Quantum Brilliance)
Accelerator Quantum in a Supercomputer (Source: Quantum Brilliance)

Alongside hardware, Doherty added that Quantum Brilliance is providing software architectures and emulators to help users develop and test software for the integration and application of quantum accelerators and to evaluate their current and future performance. “Quantum Brilliance’s current software architecture is based upon the XACC framework developed specifically for quantum accelerators by Quantum Brilliance’s collaborators at a U.S. national laboratory. Quantum Brilliance’s quantum emulator is distinguished from other quantum simulators by its detailed model of diamond quantum computers (e.g. qubit topology, native operations, errors and operation times) and scalability on high-performance computing systems. This enables users to experience the behaviour and performance of current and future quantum accelerator hardware at close to full scale in qubit number. Our high-performance emulator helps users develop and test software for the integration and application of quantum accelerators and to evaluate their current and future performance.”

Quantum Brilliance technology pursues NV (Nitrogen-Vacancy) diamond technology to create qubits. This method incorporates nitrogen atoms together with an adjacent vacancy site within a carbon diamond lattice. This NV centre can be forced into a spin-up, spin-down or superposition of these states by light and microwave signals to control the state of the qubit. The main advantage of the technology is that it can operate at room temperature and provide high-quality qubits that are stable and less affected by environmental noise. The historical challenge with NV diamond technology has been the difficulty of scaling up to a larger number of qubits.

“If you switch your picture of a quantum computer from a quantum mainframe to a quantum accelerator card that is small enough for you to hold in your hands, then your ideas about how quantum computers can be employed, what they can be applied to and when they will be useful, dramatically change,” said Doherty.

Doherty added that instead of asking “When will this quantum computer outperform a classical supercomputer,” you will ask, “When will this quantum computer outperform that CPU or GPU in my desktop computer for that task?” Instead of asking “How do I redesign my supercomputer facility to accommodate a quantum computer,” you will ask “How do I integrate hundreds of quantum computers into the racks of my current supercomputer?“ You may even begin to ask “What if my satellite, vehicle, manufacturing plant, or desktop computer had one or more quantum computers accelerating certain tasks or making some tasks possible for the first time?”

Pawsey Supercomputer Centre
Pawsey Supercomputer Centre

While mainframe quantum computers are limited in deployment by their size, weight and complexity, Doherty said that Quantum Brilliance is seeking to make quantum computing useful sooner by focusing on outperforming classical processors of comparable size, weight and power. This approach dramatically expands the scope of applications for quantum across all industries.

Quantum Brillance’s long-term goal is to develop a processor containing more than 50 qubits within five years, which would be about the size of a graphics accelerator card. Because their technology does not require a dilution refrigerator and can be quite small, they believe they can serve many markets, including edge computing and mobile devices, that would be challenging from mainframe quantum computing technologies.

This article was originally published on EE Times.

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