Groundbreaking creation of world’s first compact quantum computer

Researchers at the University of Innsbruck have succeeded in developing the world’s first compact quantum computer.

As part of the EU Flagship Quantum Technologies, scientists at the Department of Experimental Physics at the University of Innsbruck have successfully developed a demonstrator for a compact ion trap quantum computer.

“Our quantum computing experiments usually fill 30-to-50-square-meter laboratories,” explained Thomas Monz of the University of Innsbruck. “We were now looking to fit the technologies developed here in Innsbruck into the smallest possible space while meeting standards commonly used in industry.”

Through this novel device, the team intend to demonstrate that quantum computers will soon be ready for use in data centres. “We were able to show that compactness does not have to come at the expense of functionality,” adds Christian Marciniak from the Innsbruck team.

The specific elements of the world’s first compact quantum computer had to be considerably decreased in size. For example, the centrepiece of the quantum computer, the ion trap installed in a vacuum chamber, consumes a tiny proportion of the space formerly needed.

It was supplied to the researchers by Alpine Quantum Technologies (AQT), a spin-off of the University of Innsbruck and the Austrian Academy of Sciences which plans to develop a commercial quantum computer. Other elements were provided by the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering in Jena and laser specialist TOPTICA Photonics in Munich, Germany.

The compact quantum computer can be controlled independently and will soon be programmable online. One noticeable difficulty was to guarantee the stability of the quantum computer. Quantum devices are very sensitive and, in the laboratory, they are safeguarded from external disturbances with the help of elaborate measures. Remarkably, the Innsbruck team successfully applied this quality standard to the compact device as well, thereby guaranteeing safe and uninterrupted operation.

On top of the stability element, a crucial factor for the industrial use of a quantum computer is the number of available quantum bits. Thus, in its recent funding campaign, the German government has set the goal of initially building demonstration quantum computers that have 24 fully functional qubits. The Innsbruck quantum physicists have now accomplished this goal. They were able to individually regulate and successfully entangle up to 24 ions with the new device.

“By next year, we want to be able to provide a device with up to 50 individually controllable quantum bits,” added Monz.

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