Atom Computing Unveils Record-Shattering 1,225 Qubit Quantum Computer

H Hannan

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Quantum startup Atom Computing recently announced their next-generation neutral atom quantum computer slated for 2024 – a mammoth machine equipped with 1,225 functional qubits. This new system represents a 12-fold increase over their prior 100-qubit prototype, achieving the first four-digit qubit quantum computer.

Atom Computing’s meteoric rise from founding to over 1000 qubits in five years underscores the tremendous momentum across superconducting, trapped ion, and neutral atom approaches. While universal fault tolerance remains distant, rapid scaling milestones highlight the accelerating viability of quantum capabilities.

As devices push 100, 500, and now 1000+ qubits, we inch ever closer to practically useful applications benefiting from quantum advantage. Atom Computing’s unveiling invites a deeper dive into their technical innovations and the path ahead to fault-tolerant quantum.

Overcoming Key Engineering Challenges

President and CEO Rob Hays revealed that precisely controlling so many neutral atom qubits strained even their sophisticated laser and optics systems. Maintaining qubit fidelity scaled up is non-trivial.

The team confronted three coupled challenges – applying sufficient laser power to trap atoms, retaining fine manipulation ability, and preserving accuracy. Hays noted that achieving all three simultaneously for over 1000 qubits demanded meticulous engineering.

Additionally, scaling qubit count risks introducing environmental noise and errors. Isolating the delicate quantum states from stray light, vibrations, and magnetic fluctuations grows increasingly difficult. However, the group developed clever techniques to mitigate these impacts.

Powering forward, Hays highlighted their prescient work this generation solving looming energy efficiency hurdles. Despite not yet needing the capability, the researchers future-proofed control systems to enable smooth scaling past 1,225 qubits down the road.

This proactive approach allows Atom Computing to concentrate solely on new technical opportunities rather than rectifying past oversights. Hays emphasized that anticipating future bottlenecks was pivotal in reaching this milestone.

Building Fault Tolerance – The Long Game for Quantum

For quantum computing to unleash its predicted massive disruption, platforms must achieve fault tolerance – the ability to detect and account for inevitable qubit errors mid-computation. Myriad physicists believe mastering fault tolerance will unlock essentially unlimited quantum power.

Fault tolerance requires four key ingredients – high qubit numbers, low physical error rates, quantum error correction codes, and redundant parallelism to confirm results. Today’s noisy intermediate-scale quantum (NISQ) machines lack these capabilities.

But each incremental benchmark across IBM, IonQ, Atom Computing, and others provides infrastructure for fault tolerance. Atom Computing’s work addresses measurable metrics like extending coherence times and demonstrating mid-circuit measurement to catch errors.

While extreme scale fault-tolerant machines likely remain a decade away, building and testing systems like their 1,225 qubit computer elucidates that path one groundbreaking advancement at a time.

Road to Fault Tolerance Guided by Hardware-Algorithm Co-Design

Atom Computing sits at the forefront of using neutral atoms trapped by laser arrays to encode quantum information optically. This approach leverages atoms’ inherent isolation for lower noise compared to solid-state qubits. Their systems also utilize mid-circuit measurement and real-time control to optimize error mitigation.

Hays explained these capabilities help inform novel error correction strategies and machine learning techniques to further boost fidelity – a symbiotic interplay between hardware and algorithms he describes as co-design.

By incorporating learnings from programming their growing systems, Atom Computing can architect superior quantum circuits. Concurrently, developing fault-tolerance algorithms directs their hardware needs. This closed-loop co-design drives iterative improvements converging on practical large-scale fault tolerance.

Swapping Atoms for Increased Qubit Control

To reach over 1000 qubits, Atom Computing pivoted their atomic element for enhanced control and performance. Their initial 100 qubit prototype employed strontium-87. However, this was swapped for ytterbium-171 in their latest system.

Ytterbium’s atomic structure provides key advantages for manipulating quantum states. Its nuclear spin of 1/2 produces two accessible energy levels ideal for basic qubit encoding. Strontium’s more complex 9/2 spin requires intricate extra control fields that complicate operations.

The simplified ytterbium configuration enables faster, higher fidelity qubit rotations and readouts. Less complexity also grants inherent noise resilience to boost overall accuracy. These benefits compound as qubit tally grows.

Many experts believe ytterbium’s traits make it ideally suited for fault-tolerant quantum computing. By adopting ytterbium early, Atom Computing gains valuable hardware experience with a foundational atom for their long-term vision.

Pushing Always-On Fidelity for Complex Algorithms

Raw qubit count continues grabbing headlines across quantum hardware. But Hays stresses that scaling must coincide with constantly improving fidelity, longevity, and precision to run meaningful algorithms.

Atom Computing holds the coherence time record – qubits persisting for over 40 seconds. This unparalleled consistency expands the complexity of programs possible during coherence periods. With error rates below 1%, Atom Computing pushes always-on accuracy for real-world quantum tasks.

Hays asserts that while 1000+ qubits generate buzz, true metric advances like boosting algorithmic fidelity 100-fold unlock real progress. Their roadmap priorities developing robust and reliable qubits as much as sheer numerical gains.

NISQ Systems Lay the Groundwork for Profound Disruption

Exceeding 1000 qubits represents a symbolic threshold into a new computing paradigm. We stand at an inflection point where quantum’s immense latent potential nears practical utilization.

But observers exuberant for instant large-scale quantum should temper expectations. Traversing from fragile but scalable NISQ prototypes to universal fault-tolerant machines remains a journey of years, not months.

However, Atom Computing‘s rapid rise makes them well-positioned to navigate challenges ahead. Each incremental innovation aids unlocking commercially relevant quantum applications in computing, materials, and beyond that transform industries.

With quantum advantage still closer on the horizon than fully realized today, the path forward rewards patience. But make no mistake – we are steadily headed toward a profound quantum technological revolution. One carefully engineered qubit at a time.

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