Quantum computing startup launches first commercial-use neutral-atom machine on Amazon Braket

In the last five years, neutral atoms have emerged as dark horse candidates in the race to build quantum computers. Neutral-atom machines supposedly offer a clear path to scaling up processing power as the technology continues to develop. Today, their architecture is powerful, practical and programmable, capable of manipulating hundreds of qubits. Their elaborate design allows certain calculations to be performed more easily than alternate methods. A neutral-atom approach offers benefits including stability, on-off crosstalk and, as the atoms are neutral and don’t repel each other, very minimal infrastructure requirements in terms of cooling and control. 

Founded in Boston in 2018, QuEra Computing is in the pursuit of building the industry’s most scalable quantum computers, which can tackle classically intractable problems for commercially relevant applications. Built on research conducted at nearby Harvard University and MIT, QuEra Computing’s Aquila is an analog neutral-atom quantum computer that claims to ensure a high level of control over a large machine with hundreds of qubits, with high resistance to errors. Aquila’s control systems allow for faster responses to customization requests, permitting quick and precise encoding of problems with a high degree of adaptability.

Modular, fault-tolerant design

The platform’s modular design means new functionalities can be added without having to rebuild the core technology. A digital quantum computer is thus within the hardware’s reach, as is hybrid analog-digital processing. Aquila’s platform also supports the features necessary for fault-tolerant design. Its architecture is very flexible in terms of the kinds of qubit configurations that can be set up within the processor itself. In fact, it can be reconfigured with every instance of running the machine, a feature comparable to designing a new chip layout for each computation.

QuEra's Aquila platform includes analog quantum processor architecture to deliver commercially relevant solutions to complex problems sooner.
QuEra’s Aquila platform has an analog quantum processor architecture that can deliver commercially relevant solutions to complex problems in the near term.

Aquila’s analog mode opens new possibilities to deliver commercially relevant solutions to complex problems in the near term. For those seeking to understand how quantum systems evolve over time — a process known as quantum dynamics — this mode provides an improvement over classical computers. Quantum twins, like digital twins, can be created to model behaviors of quantum systems. Other potential applications beyond quantum dynamics include chemical analysis, optimization and machine learning.

Aquila now offers the power of 256 qubits, and QuEra has an ambitious roadmap in place to scale the machine’s computational power to much higher numbers. Its design presents a unique combination of system size, coherence, and an innovative analog quantum processing mode that provides a great deal of flexibility in how solutions to problems can be calculated. The hardware is complemented by Bloqade, an open-source software package that assists with expressing problems in this new way. 

Quantum computing for the rest of us

“Aquila is now live on Amazon Braket, and provides a powerful and unique platform that advances the state of the art in quantum computation. We look forward to seeing how users from all over the world will utilize this amazing new platform for research and industrial applications,” said Alexander Keesling, CEO of QuEra Computing in an official statement. For customers, this presents an opportunity to explore new solutions to complex problems in high-energy physics, optimization, material sciences, pharmaceuticals and other fields. 

“AWS is deeply focused on bringing our customers choice on Amazon Braket to explore scientific research and software development for quantum computing,” added Simone Severini, director of quantum computing at AWS. “The addition of Aquila brings neutral-atom quantum computing capabilities to everyone on Amazon Braket for the first time. QuEra Computing’s offering helps expand the types of applications that can be performed through Amazon Braket and is a valuable addition for customers focused on exploring neutral-atom computing.”

QuEra Computing also continues developing large-scale universal fault-tolerant gate-based quantum computers to tackle many problems beyond the capabilities of classical computers. Built upon the same platform, Aquila’s analog operation represents a different approach to quantum computing that opens up new problem-solving possibilities.

The near-term promise of analog quantum computing

“Special purpose analog quantum devices are likely to outperform classical computation for direct simulation of other quantum systems before we realize a fault-tolerant, universal quantum computer,” said Ignacio Cirac, director and head of the theory division at the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics (MPQ). “In the Theory Division of MPQ we are very much looking forward to using the QuEra device on Amazon Braket, which enables our team of researchers to experiment and pursue new ideas in the field of analog quantum simulation.” 

In sum, QuEra Computing aims to foster scientific breakthroughs to resolve major roadblocks on the path towards full-scale universal quantum computing — and to demonstrate post-classical computing value today. The company continues to develop its technology towards delivering large-scale universal fault-tolerant gate-based quantum computers down the road.

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