The current day developments of a quantum computer resembles the early days of classical computers back in 1930-50’s, when both the analog (Mark 1) and digital (Kornard Zuse’s) versions were developing simultaneously. Very similar set of questions were asked then and now relates to the usefulness of these early stage computing machines. As an example the following question was asked in 1944 about the Mark 1: Is the new machine capable of doing more than a calculator of that time? If we translate the same for a quantum computer of today, we may reframe it as “is a current quantum computer capable to solving an useful problem which a current classical computer cannot?”. The answers will not be too different from then and now, but we cannot predict the future with certainty. So let us look at the first usage of the Mark 1 machine. It was used for simulating implosion scenarios in an atomic bomb related to the Manhattan project.
While it is theoretically true that a large enough universal quantum computer is capable of solving certain problems that do not currently have any efficient classical solutions, the currently available noisy intermediate scale quantum (NISQ) computers are yet to prove their worthiness. What has been demonstrated, is a good indication about the future possibilities, like performing a task that out-performs a classical machine in terms of time it takes to solve the same problem with limited resources (quantum supremacy). However, note that these problems are of no practical use. It is therefore important to perform fundamental research to mature from NISQ era to universal quantum computing era. In most likelihood, this journey is not incremental in nature.
NISQ computers, however provide a playground to answer fundamental questions like:
(a) how to verify a result of a quantum computer? (b) how to characterize its performance as there exists various platforms? and more importantly (c) how to scale them up while minimizing errors?
At CQuERE, we are developing a NISQ computer with the aim to answer some of these questions. We use the ion trap platform as it is known to have the lowest error rate and hence the most advance in terms of the aggregated quality of coherence time, gate fidelity and computational depth. The superior features of an ion trap quantum computer comes from many decades of research with ion trap systems related to atomic clocks and precision spectroscopy. Here we take advantage of that knowledge to explore the NISQ era quantum computers.
We will build the quantum computer from scratch, backed by experiences in developing similar machines elsewhere. The ion trap based quantum information processor (IT-QPU) is a multi-stack system involving various fields including vacuum, laser, optics, electro-optics and computer science. The team is a diverse team of people with complementary expertise working in close collaboration, both within and outside. It is important to note that the complexity of a IT-QPU demands global collaboration and we are no different. Therefore, we are building a team which is energetic, enthusiastic and thorough in their approach to problem solving. The problem of developing an useful universal quantum computer is an open problem. We intend to contribute to its solution.
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