The world's first on-premises, room-temperature quantum computer has just been installed in Pawsey's Supercomputing Research Centre, in Australia. Developed by Australian start-up Quantum Brilliance, the quantum accelerator doesn't require any exotic cooling methods to maintain quantum coherence, and has even been developed for installation in a typical rack system. The new quantum accelerator will thus be taken for a spin in tandem with Pawsey's new, state-of-the-art Setonix, its HPE Cray Ex supercomputer.
The room-temperature achievement was unlocked due to Quantum Brilliance's approach to quantum computing; instead of the more common ion chains, silicon quantum dots, or superconducting transmon qubits, Quantum Brilliance took advantage of specifically implanted nitrogen-vacancy centers in synthetic diamonds (where a carbon atom is replaced by a nitrogen one).
These vacancy centers amount to defects in the diamond's structure, which feature a photoluminescence capability that allows for the qubits' spin states to be read based on the emitted light's characteristics, without directly interacting with the qubits. A number of techniques, such as magnetic or electric fields, microwave radiation, or light (Quantum Brilliance uses a green laser technology for this purpose) can be used to directly manipulate the nitrogen-vacancy center's qubits. Quantum Brilliance's qubits are described by the company as being in the "middle of the pack" for coherence times and performance, being slower than superconducting qubits, but faster than the trapped-ion approach of some other providers.
Andrew Horsley, CEO of Quantum Brilliance, painted the field trial as a significant step for the company on its journey to achieve a quantum technology that's smaller, compatible, more flexible, and ultimately able to operate in any environment.
“Our vision is to take quantum from mainframe to mainstream — running your mobile phone, your car, your work platforms, or anywhere close to the application where it is needed," said Horsley. "This collaboration is our first step toward achieving this goal.”
The partnership with the Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre aims to supercharge the pairing of quantum and classical systems by establishing initial, hybrid environments that could diagnose bottlenecks and possible improvements towards the quantum-classical integration.
While nowadays most quantum computing work is done in a simulated environment in platforms such as IBM's Quiskit and Nvidia's cuQuantum initiative, the deployment of a room-temperature quantum computer within a supercomputing centre will allow researchers to truly leverage on-site computing, maintenance and integration. The aim now will be to develop diagnostics and engineering workflows for this quantum-classical integration.
“The partnership between Pawsey and Quantum Brilliance will play a pivotal role in demonstrating how we can deliver classical-quantum compute power scale in a way never before seen in an HPC environment,” Pawsey’s Executive Director Mark Stickells said. “This will provide a testbed where real applications can be proved, so our researchers can do more effectively — enabling science and accelerating discovery."
Mark Stickells said the integration of the quantum accelerator into the HPC architecture would help its 4,000 researchers learn more about how the two systems can work in tandem.
“We look forward to seeing enterprises and researchers utilizing HPC as a hub to explore novel classical-quantum codes using Setonix and the quantum accelerator as a step towards the hybrid computing future,” he finished.