Glass Chip and New Quantum Architecture: What You Need to Know?

Oct 5, 2021
4 min read

IonQ, the Maryland-based quantum computing research center, has developed a glass chip for its quantum computer technology. The computers at this center use quantum states of ions trapped near a chip for calculation.

Previously, the traps manufactured by IonQ consisted of silicon, but now they are using evaporated glass trap technology. The "evaporated" technology helps in building micrometer-scale features.

The company said to IEEE Spectrum, the previous trap technology is not built for the new quantum architecture. They had to go for glass chip's reconfigurable ions chains for this purpose.

How Does the Glass Chip Work?

"The purpose of an ion trap is to move ions around with precision, hold them in the environment, and get out of the way of the quantum operation," said Jason Amini, the glass chip team lead. The 3D glass and the metal product perform all three functions which the previous chip couldn't.

The glass chip design "hides any material that could hold a charge," Amini said. On the other hand, the silicon-based chip reduces the quantum computation fidelity. The glass chip design is much more stable which helps in better computation.

Moreover, another prominent advantage is that the trap is reconfigurable to "get out of the way" of the operations, said Amini. In an ion trap computer, the states are manipulated with lasers. The team had to bring laser beams over the surface previously.

However, the glass chip has a design to allow a laser beam to pass and address the device.

IonQ designed the previous silicon-based ion traps at Sandia National Laboratory, Mexico. But the team wanted to have better control of the technology. With better control, they could design faster. So, they started looking for new designs.

The evaporated glass trap helped IonQ to go for a demonstration of the new quantum computing scheme. CEO Peter Chapman has called this new trap industry's first reconfigurable multicore quantum architecture or RMQA.

How Does the Demonstration Work?

The demonstration by IonQ showed that big and complex quantum operations are possible with the help of the new technology. The trap holds four chains consisting of 16 ions in a row. The chains can be nudged into position by laser beam manipulation.

It alters the quantum state or the groups of ions allowing the states to link with each other. So, the resultant is "each chain becomes a quantum computer itself," says Chapman. Moreover, one can bring two chains together to develop a core that allows entangling qubits linking.

However, it’s not perfect.

Chapman explains, "that out of 16 ions, the chip produces 12 qubits". The rest four are "refrigerant" ions that help in correcting imperfections. Thus the IonQ's latest demonstration produces 48 qubits.

However, it can be easily expanded by lengthening the trap. And since this is quantum computing, even minor expansion is a big deal. It adds a substantial amount of capability with each qubit addition.

"The architecture allows you to relatively easily expand to hundreds of qubits on a single chip," says Chapman.

How are Glass Chips Different From Silicon Chips?

When silicon spin qubits came to use, communication between different qubits became fast. Even with a large spaced environment, communication between two chips was possible. Although, silicon had a slow start, but later it turned into a potential quantum computing material.

The major difference between these two types of chips is that silicon based chips reduce fidelity. Glass chips on the other hand help in stabilizing the operations smoothly. IonQ found that glass chips have a better quality compared to silicon chips.

Glass chips have an overall better computation which helps the researcher attain the goals.

What Other Works are Going On With This Technology?

IonQ is not the only company exploring this new technology. Honeywell, AQT, and Oxford Ionics are three other companies, working with trapped ions in quantum computing scaling.

Honeywell's approach is to connect two qubits by physically moving the ions next to each other. However, on the other hand, IonQ does it by using a laser beam. The lasers help in doing multiple operations on qubits at the same time.

AQT or Alpine QT is doing researches on the trapped ion philosophy. The current research includes the Pine ceramic mounter Paul trap. It has the capability of trapping more than 20 ions. The research will help in making precisions accurate for instruments like spectroscopy and more.

The Oxford Ionics is working on the quantum computer by combining the trapped-ion technology with their noiseless electronic qubit control technology.

What is the Future of Quantum Computing?

According to a study, the quantum computing market is estimated to reach $64.98 billion by 2030. And all the major companies such as Google, Intel and Microsoft are competing to develop the quantum computing tools.

So, it’s expected that sooner or later, quantum computing will become the part of everyday life. Quantum computers can process information way faster than classic computers. So, in future, it is going to be a game changer.

With the right tools, the quantum computers can easily solve problems which our classic computers may take decade. According to Chapman, the quantum computers have potential to even solve major humanity related challenges!

Therefore, different companies around the world are investing huge capital in the research work. This system can help in transforming different types of industries. Especially medicine industry is going to see a leap with the introduction of the right tools.

Also, the transportation industry may see a massive change with tools for accurate future prediction of traffic.

Similarly, almost every industry can avail of the benefits.

Moreover, glass chips in quantum computing are no less than a breakthrough, and we can expect things to be quite faster now.

Ready to Invest in Quantum Computing?

Presently, glass chips are bringing a change in the quantum computing world. However, still, there is enough time for quantum computers to become a part of our everyday life. Even it will take some time for industries to accept this technology fully.

However, for now, the major target of most industries is to strive for quantum supremacy! Even Google made a claim in 2019 of achieving this which ultimately became a dispute. Since quantum computing can solve problems quicker than anything, industries are heavily investing in it.