Breakthrough in quantum computers set to solve major societal challenges

UK scientists have made a major breakthrough in developing practical quantum computers – connecting quantum microchips for the first time.

For the first time, researchers from the University of Sussex and Universal Quantum have proved that quantum bits (qubits) can directly transfer between quantum computer microchips. This has been demonstrated with record-breaking speed and accuracy. The breakthrough is set to resolve a major challenge in building quantum computers large and powerful enough to tackle complex problems that are important to society.  

Currently, quantum computers operate on the 100-qubit scale, but to answer crucial problems that cannot be solved by today’s supercomputers, experts predict that millions of qubits will be required.1,2 There is a global quantum race to develop quantum computers that can assist in complex societal challenges, such as drug discovery and improving the energy efficiency of fertiliser production.  

In the research paper, titled ‘A high-fidelity quantum matter-link between ion-trap microchip modules,’ the scientists demonstrated how they have used a novel technique, called ‘UQ Connect,’ to use electric field links to enable qubits to move from one quantum computing microchip module to another with unparalleled speed and precision. This enables chips to slot together to develop a more powerful quantum computer.  

The team was able to transport the qubits with record-breaking success  

The scientists were successful in transporting the qubits with a 99.999993% success rate and a connection rate of 2424/s. These numbers are both world records and orders of magnitude better than previous solutions. 

Professor Winfried Hensinger, Professor of Quantum Technologies at the University of Sussex and Chief Scientist and Co-founder at Universal Quantum, said: “As quantum computers grow, we will eventually be constrained by the size of the microchip, which limits the number of quantum bits such a chip can accommodate. As such, we knew a modular approach was key to make quantum computers powerful enough to solve step-changing industry problems. In demonstrating that we can connect two quantum computing chips – a bit like a jigsaw puzzle – and, crucially, that it works so well, we unlock the potential to scale-up by connecting hundreds or even thousands of quantum computing microchips.” 

The development does not affect the quantum nature of the qubit  

While linking the modules at world-record speed, the scientists confirmed that the quantum nature of the qubit remains untouched during transport. For instance, the qubit can be both zero and one at the same time.  

© shutterstock/kkssr

Dr Sebastian Weidt, CEO and Co-founder of Universal Quantum, and Senior Lecturer in Quantum Technologies at the University of Sussex said: “Our relentless focus is on providing people with a tool that will enable them to revolutionise their field of work. The Universal Quantum and University of Sussex teams have done something truly incredible here that will help make our vision a reality. These exciting results show the remarkable potential of Universal Quantum’s quantum computers to become powerful enough to unlock the many lifechanging applications of quantum computing.” 

Universal Quantum and the University of Sussex are making groundbreaking improvements 

Universal Quantum has recently been awarded €67m from the German Aerospace Center (DLR) to build two quantum computers where they will implement this technology as part of the contract. The University of Sussex spin-out was also just named as one of the 2022 Institute of Physics award winners in the Business Start-up category. 

“The DLR contract was likely one of the largest government quantum computing contracts ever handed out to a single company. This is a huge validation of our technology. Universal Quantum is now working hard to deploy this technology in our upcoming commercial machines,” Weidt said.  

Dr Mariam Akhtar led the research during her time as Research Fellow at the University of Sussex and Quantum Advisor at Universal Quantum. She said: “The team has demonstrated fast and coherent ion transfer using quantum matter links. This experiment validates the unique architecture that Universal Quantum has been developing – providing an exciting route towards truly large-scale quantum computing.”  

The work will bring us one step closer to a quantum computer that can be used for real-world use 

Professor Sasha Roseneil, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex, said: “It’s fantastic to see that the inspired work of the University of Sussex and Universal Quantum physicists has resulted in this phenomenal breakthrough, taking us a significant step closer to a quantum computer that will be of real societal use. These computers are set to have boundless applications – from improving the development of medicines, creating new materials, to maybe even unlocking solutions to the climate crisis.” 

Professor Keith Jones, Interim Provost and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at the University of Sussex, added: “This is a very exciting finding from our University of Sussex physicists and Universal Quantum. It proves the value and dynamism of this University of Sussex spin-out company, whose work is grounded in rigorous and world-leading academic research. Quantum computers will be pivotal in helping to solve some of the most pressing global issues. We’re delighted that Sussex academics are delivering research that offers hope in realising the positive potential of next-generation quantum technology in crucial areas such as sustainability, drug development, and cybersecurity.”   


  1. Webber, M., et. al. AVS Quantum Sci. 4, 013801 (2022)
  2. Lekitsch, B., et al., Science Advances, 3(2), 1–12 (2017)

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