Small, affordable, ‘plug-and-play’ quantum computing is one step closer. An Australian startup has won $13 million to make its diamond-based computing cores shine. Now it needs to grow.
ANU research spinoff Quantum Brilliance has found a way to use synthetic diamonds to drive quantum calculations. Now it’s on a five-year quest to produce commercially viable Quantum Accelerators. The goal is a card capable of being plugged into any existing computer system similar to the way graphics cards are now.
“We’re not deluding ourselves,” says CEO Dr Andrew Horsley. “There’s still a lot of work to do. But we’ve now got a five-year pathway to produce a lunchbox-sized device”.
To do this, Quantum Brilliance is hiring 20 engineers, scientists, physicists, software engineers, and control engineers. The resulting quantum accelerator card will be valuable for self-driving car manufacturers, materials research labs, logistics hubs and financial services firms.
“We’ve understood electricity and magnetism for a long time,” Dr Horsley says. “We now understand quantum phenomena and are in the process of turning that into technology. It’s very exciting. And it’s not just an iterative improvement. This is a whole new way of computing. And we’re doing it here, in Australia”.
It’s about big-time boosts in performance.
“If you’ve got one inside your self-driving car, it will be much better able to interpret its environment and make smarter decisions,” Dr Horsley says. “Or you could have a stack of them in a supercomputer, working through combinations of chemical properties to quickly simulate new battery materials or drugs.”
The goal is to demonstrate a 50 qubit accelerator card by 2025. A qubit is the quantum equivalent of a traditional computer’s basic unit of data – a bit.
Quantum Brilliance’s success has been using diamond as the engine for quantum processing in the same way silicon drives existing chips.
Most importantly, this can be done at room temperature with relatively simple control systems.
Competing techniques need cryogenic cooling or complex lasers to calm subatomic vibrations that can disrupt fragile quantum states.
“Diamond is so rigid that, even at room temperature, we have long-lived quantum properties,” Dr Horsley says. “That’s the key. We have a diamond with ultra-high-density qubits inside of it, sitting there, in ambient conditions”.
The technology is ready. Now the challenge is to turn it into a commercially viable reality.
“We need to scale up the number of qubits that we’ve got while at the same time shrinking down the size of the control systems into a portable package,” he says.
At the same time, different companies and institutions will be acting as testbeds for simulated quantum computing to design the software needed for the real thing.
“This is helping Australian companies understand quantum computing and their own applications so that they’re ready to commercially exploit these powerful devices as soon as they become available,” he adds.
The $13 million investment is led by QxBranch founders and Main Sequence investment consortium.
Jamie Seidel is a freelance journalist based in Adelaide.
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