The road to quantum computing has been a cold one — just above absolute zero, in fact. That’s the temperature at which most quantum computers must operate to function.
In a pioneering milestone, the Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre we operate in Perth is now home to the first room-temperature quantum computer in a supercomputing facility, anywhere in the world.
Developed by German-Australian start-up Quantum Brilliance, the two-qubit diamond quantum ‘accelerator’ uses synthetic diamonds and runs at room temperature in any environment. Bits, in traditional computing, refer only to binary values (0s and 1s); a quantum bit, or qubit, is not either but both values simultaneously.
The Pawsey team will be testing Quantum Brilliance’s diamond accelerator system by pairing it with their new state-of-the-art supercomputer, Setonix.
Quantum computing is very cool
Quantum computing promises to vastly increase the speed at which data can be processed. This is even when compared with today’s best supercomputers.
A very chilly temperature of -273°C is what most quantum computers developed so far need to maintain. These extremely cold temperatures reduce system ‘noise’ created by the movement of atoms and molecules. But keeping a quantum computer that cold is both energy intensive and expensive.
Understandably, the quest for room-temperature quantum computing has been underway for decades. Researchers have now pioneered the use of diamonds in small quantum computers, which currently run at a few qubits.
These diamond quantum computers can work at room temperature. This is because the ultra-hard diamond serves as a kind of quantum mechanical ‘dead space’ where qubits go to survive for a few hundred microseconds.
Working at scale is a challenge
‘Few-qubit’ diamond quantum computers are the only solid-state devices that have, so far, demonstrated non-trivial operations at room temperature. Researchers hit a roadblock though when they tried to scale systems beyond a handful of qubits.
The challenge now is to improve qubit numbers and scale down the size, weight and power requirements of diamond quantum computing platforms.
Where might this lead? For startup Quantum Brilliance, they hope diamond quantum computing might allow robust applications wherever classical computers are currently found – in cars, machinery, satellites, autonomous systems, and more.
Pawsey on the quantum computing superhighway
The Pawsey Centre is a world-class high-performance computing facility accelerating scientific discoveries for Australia’s researchers. It’s currently serving over 4000 researchers in areas such as radio astronomy, energy and resources, engineering, bioinformatics and health sciences.
Pawsey now has Quantum Brilliance’s rack-mounted diamond accelerator installed. The next phase of field testing the system will focus on diagnostics and engineering solutions for operating a quantum computer in a high-performance computing environment.
The Pawsey team will work together with Quantum Brilliance to collect and improve maintenance data, demonstrate classical and quantum co-processing, and integrate the system with Setonix. At the same time, we will be learning more about operating in a quantum environment.
There’s still a way to go. But, this latest development could help pave the way for a future where quantum and classical computing can work together. A future where they complement each other and — importantly — continue our work in enabling science and accelerating discovery.
The Pawsey Centre is a joint venture between CSIRO, Curtin University, Edith Cowan University, Murdoch University and The University of Western Australia, and supported with funding from the Western Australian and Australian Governments.
10th June 2022 at 6:32 am