Diamonds are a quantum computer’s best friend | Information Age

Jaime E. Love


Diamonds are changing the quantum computing game. Photo: Shutterstock

Australian quantum computing researchers are continuing to distinguish themselves on the world stage, with two local pioneers forging new links with overseas partners as the race to build quantum computers accelerates the threat of widespread quantum decryption.

German-Australian quantum R&D firm Quantum Brilliance this month partnered with La Trobe University and RMIT University to develop new ways of fabricating quantum computers using diamonds.

Quantum Brilliance has found ways to use defects in the structure of diamonds – where a carbon atom is replaced with nitrogen to create a nitrogen-vacancy centre that can be manipulated to function as a quantum qubit – to operate quantum computers at room temperature.

By contrast, early designs have relied on superconducting materials that need to be cooled to nearly absolute zero (-273.15 degrees Celsius).

Quantum Brilliance’s Gen1 Model is already available, with the first model expected to be installed in a Western Australian organisation this month.

Co-founder and chief scientific officer Dr Marcus Doherty said the new partnership – which will see the creation of a new Research Hub for Diamond Quantum Materials (RHDQM) – will further refine the technology by developing new methods for building diamond-based quantum computers at atomic scale.

The partnership “will develop the fabrication techniques necessary to enhance the performance of diamond-based quantum computers to deliver real-world solutions to a broad spectrum of industries,” Doherty explained, adding that the partnership will “deliver economic benefit to Australia in the years to come.”

Australian Research Council (ARC) backed projects are already supporting Quantum Brilliance research into diamond-based quantum computers, with facilities such as the ARC Centres of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQus) and Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T) supporting local industry development.

The RHDQM’s focus on room-temperature quantum computers will help identify new applications where quantum computing can be used outside of complex data centres.

“Unlike other quantum-based supercomputers sitting in large server-based formats, diamond-based quantum computers are low-cost, portable technologies able to operate at room temperature,” said Professor Chris Pakes, La Trobe University pro vice-chancellor, graduate and global research.

“This enables them to be used in a broad range of edge applications [that] may not be possible with supercomputers, such as satellites, health environments, and manufacturing.”

Running the quantum race

With governments worldwide pouring money into quantum – US President Joseph Biden this month, for example, requested $390m ($US293m) for quantum information sciences R&D on the back of a December quantum industry strategy, and other countries are investing similarly – quantum computing has gained global urgency.

Recognising the potential commercial returns from successful quantum-computing work, the Australian federal government’s recent Budget allocated further funding – the exact amount has not been published “due to commercial sensitivities” – to further quantum industry development.

That’s in addition to the increased support of the AUKUS multinational defence and R&D pact, which is already helping Australian quantum pioneers expand overseas.

Yet investments in quantum technology are driven by more than potential commercial return: with encryption experts increasingly warning that quantum computers could enable the decryption of all currently encrypted data by the end of the decade, those computers are also being seen as strategic national weapons – and encryption developers are responding in kind.

The newly-released version 9.0 of OpenSSH, a near-ubiquitous library for data encryption, incorporates post-quantum cryptography (PQC) techniques designed to let today’s applications protect data with algorithms designed to be safe from quantum-computing compromise.

Such defences will be crucial to other partnerships, such as a recently-announced collaboration between Sydney-based quantum company Q-CTRL and Switzerland’s Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) that will focus on building large-scale quantum computers, pushing quantum computers to new heights.

The Swiss organisation’s decision to tap Q-CTRL’s expertise – which will link the Sydney-based team with the existing ETH Zurich-PSI Quantum Computing Hub founded in May 2021 – comes as increasingly large quantum computers demand better calibration and error-control techniques to maintain their integrity.

Q-CTRL’s technology “will be very valuable in finding optimal control solutions that ensure uniform performance across larger qubit arrays,” said Dr Cornelius Hempel, group head of Ion Trap Quantum Computing with PSI.

“As we go to larger and larger machines and continuous operation of testbeds, it’s just not possible to continue using brute-force approaches at scale.”





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