Germany bankrolls effort to build home-grown quantum systems
Germany is getting more serious about quantum computing with the foundation of the QSolid project which aims to build a complete quantum computer based on cutting-edge native technology.
QSolid has been formed by a consortium of 25 German companies and research institutions, backed by funding from the country’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research, which has stumped up €76.3m ($84m) for the next five years.
The German research project will be coordinated by the Forschungszentrum Jülich, one of the largest interdisciplinary research centers in Europe, and aims to drive development of quantum systems by creating qubits of a high quality, aiming to deliver a demonstrator by mid-2024.
Quantum systems are still in the early stages of development, and promise breakthroughs in a number of areas, such as materials science and drug development. And although developing a usable quantum computer comes with huge challenges, the QSolid scientists point out that it offers an opportunity to set industry standards and secure intellectual property rights from the outset.
“Our focus is on improving the quality of the quantum bits, a goal we are pursuing on all levels in QSolid,” said Professor Frank Wilhelm-Mauch from Forschungszentrum Jülich, who is the QSolid project coordinator.
The QSolid members aim to develop a system containing various quantum processors based on superconducting circuits, which is the type of technology used by many other outfits developing quantum systems, such as IBM and Google. However, the current level of technology produces qubits that are of low quality, meaning that they have a high error rate, which is where QSolid is focusing its research.
“The optimizations we have in mind start with next-generation superconducting circuits with a particularly low error rate, which we plan to achieve using high-precision manufacturing methods and new material systems,” said Prof Wilhelm-Mauch.
Other elements aimed at boosting quality include optimal control of the qubits as well as developing error avoidance methods based on artificial intelligence (AI) at the firmware level, in which QSolid aims to set new standards, he added.
The quantum system developed by QSolid will be located at Forschungszentrum Jülich, and it is planned to operate at least three different quantum processors in parallel. One of these is described as a “moonshot” system planned to have computing power that will exceed that of conventional supercomputers, while another will be an application-specific system designed to perform quantum calculations for industry, and the third will be a benchmarking platform aimed at the development of digital twins and industry standards.
According to QSolid, the first prototypes of the planned demonstrators are being produced at the Leibniz-Institut für Photonische Technologien (Leibniz IHPT), and are expected to be operational by 2024. A production line for superconducting circuits is already in place there, and this will be converted into a pilot production line for superconducting quantum circuits as part of the project.
QSolid brings together research institutions, companies, and start-ups from across Germany, including Jülich Supercomputing Centre (JSC), the Central Institute of Engineering, Electronics, Fraunhofer IPMS and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), plus ParityQC, Rosenberger HF-Technik, Atos science+computing AG and Globalfoundries.
However, the funding for QSolid is less than the £93 million over five years that UK Research and Innovation found for quantum projects in 2020, and a mere fraction of the money made available for quantum research in the US.
The move follows other recent developments in the quantum arena, with PsiQuantum detailing plans for a data centre-sized quantum computer built using silicon photonics, Saudi Aramco working with French startup Pasqal on applications for the oil and gas industry, and HPE and Samsung investing in another quantum startup, Classiq. ®