An Australian startup has just made a major breakthrough in quantum computers

The Australian manufacturer of quantum computers, Silicon Quantum Computing (SQC), has developed the world’s first integrated circuit manufactured on an atomic scale.

The circuit, which functions as an analog quantum processor, has come less than a decade after SQC’s declaration in 2012 that it had manufactured the world’s first single-atom transistor and has been achieved two years ahead of schedule.

Founder Michelle Simmons said her team has used the processor to accurately model the quantum states of a small, organic polyacetylene molecule – which definitely proves the validity of the company’s technology for modeling quantum systems.

“This is a major breakthrough. Today’s classical computers struggle to simulate even relatively small molecules due to the large number of possible interactions between atoms,” she said.

“The development of SQC’s atomic-scale orbital technology will allow the company and its customers to design quantum models for a variety of new materials, whether they are drugs, materials for batteries or catalysts. It will not be long before we can begin. to realize new materials that have never existed before. ”

The milestone of the atomic-scale integrated circuit is a culmination of 20 years of research led by Simmons. It delivers on a challenge that was first postulated by the pioneering theoretical physicist Professor Richard Feynman in his famous 1959 lecture Lots of space at the bottom.

The physicist argued that in order to understand how nature works, one must be able to control matter on the same length scale that matter is made up of – that is, on the length scale of atoms. Six decades later, the SQC team has proven this hypothesis and built an integrated circuit using atomic components in silicon.

The breakthrough is a major technical milestone in the company’s goal of delivering an error-corrected processor that subsequently enables scaling of quantum computer hardware.

Simmons said the Sydney startup’s performance also validates its atomic manufacturing capabilities by integrating multiple atomic components into a single unit.

“The exquisite precision of the device validates SQC’s technical strategy of focusing on quality as opposed to quantity,” she said.

“We have created an excellent precision production technology that opens the door to a whole new world. It is a big step towards building a commercial quantum computer,” said Simmons.

Silicon Quantum Computing Chairman Stephen Menzies was proud of the company’s ability to deliver on milestones as it looks to raise $ 130 million in a Series A funding round to fund the company’s technical development, operations and strategic activities over the next six years. year.

“Achieving such a landmark two years ahead of schedule is a triumph,” he said.

“SQC engineers are now scaling the technology to address more industrially relevant molecules, and as a company we look forward to developing targeted industrial partnerships to meet their simulation needs.”

SQC was launched in May 2017 and operates from laboratories at UNSW. Five years ago, it raised $ 83 million in a Seed round from UNSW Sydney, Telstra, CBA and Australian and NSW governments.

In addition to its core processor technology, SQC is developing a ‘full stack’ quantum computer to ensure it can deliver a useful and manufacturable quantum unit and is now scaling its quantum hardware to take on heavy computing tasks that cannot be performed by traditional computers.