QuEra Debuts 3-Year Roadmap to 10,000 Physical and 100 Logical Qubits

By John Russell

January 9, 2024

QuEra Computing, the young quantum computing company leveraging neutral atom-based qubits, introduced a new expansive roadmap today that calls for delivering ever-larger systems over the next three years including one with 256-physical qubits (Aquila device, released in 2022) with 10 logical qubits in 2024; ~3000 physical qubits and 30 logical qubits in 2025; and ~10,000 physical qubits and 100 logical qubits in 2026. The logical qubits, said QuEra, will be error-corrected with fidelities exceeding physical qubits.

Nate Gemelke, co-founder and CTO of QuEra, said in the official announcement, “In a few years, the number of physical qubits will be less important to customers, and the focus will switch to logical error-corrected qubits. Today, we are taking a major step in this critical transition from quantum experimentation to true quantum computing value.”

The ambitious roadmap is more evidence, says QuEra, of its rapid progress, and the emergence of neutral atom-based qubits as one of the top contenders among various qubit modalities. IBM, Rigetti, and Google, for example, are pursuing superconducting qubits. IonQ and Quantinuum are pursuing trapped ion-based qubits. PsiQuantum is focused on photonics-based QC. Reaching the 100-logical-qubit mark, says the company, will be a game-changer in that early users can stop thinking about qubit-counts and focus on application development that is currently beyond the scope of qubit simulation on classical computers.

Alex Keesling, QuEra CEO

In a briefing with HPCwire, Alex Kessling, QuEra CEO, said, “The importance of this100 logical qubits is two-fold. We will be at the point where you can run sophisticated algorithms that make use actually of the whole 100 logical qubits. So, it’s not just the number of logical qubits, but the depth of the algorithms that can be run [is] not something that you could have done with a with a smaller system. This is really at the point where we cannot predict classically (through classical simulation) what the outcome of the algorithm is going to be.

“And importantly, it will be the first time where we cannot predict the outcome, but we can certify that the outcome is the correct one, that there are no errors that are being introduced throughout the computation, which is in large part what limits this NISQ (noisy intermediate scale quantum computing) era that we’re in. We will have new computational capabilities that we haven’t had any time before in history, and there are certain problems for which they are naturally suited. This is where I think that we’re in chemistry and materials and other similar areas. This is where I think that we’re going to start seeing the first real users.”

Companies developing neutral atom based-based qubits are relative newccomers. QuEra was launched in 2021, leveraging work from Harvard and MIT. Pasqal, a French neutral atom-based QC start-up, was formed in 2019. Atom Computing, also focusing neutral atom-based QC, was formed in January 2018 leveraging work done at the University of Colorado. They’re the new kids on the block.

Broadly speaking, neutral atom-based QC platforms have strengths and weaknesses. The atoms are all inherently identical, so no manufacturing issues. QuEra uses Rubidium atoms but other companies use other elements. Neutral atom qubits exhibit long coherence time, another plus. One drawback is slower clock speeds, for example, relative to semiconductor-based superconducting qubits.

The general approach is to place the neutral atoms in an evacuated chamber. Lasers are used to “chill” the atoms, hold them in position (or move them around), and to induce the desired quantum state. Different companies have different techniques to do this. Entanglement is accomplished by pumping the atoms up into a Rydberg state such that nearby atoms are now close enough to entangle. Flexibility is another strength. Neutral atom-based systems can be used for analog quantum computing as well as gate-based quantum computing. (Link to QuEra neutral atom technology description). QuEra’s current offering (Aquila) is an analog mode device.

Like everyone in QC development, QuEra is focused on improving error correction/mitigation, and the company made significant news last month as part of a collaboration led by Harvard and MIT that reported successfully executing large-scale algorithms on an error-corrected quantum computer with 48 logical qubits and hundreds of entangling logical operations (see Nature paper; there’s also brief summary of the work at the end of this article).

Here’s QuEra’s characterization of key roadmap features:

  • “2024: Launching a quantum computer with 10 logical qubits, unique transversal gate capability, and over 256 physical qubits. Transversal gates are crucial in quantum computing for their ability to prevent error propagation across qubits, making them inherently error-resistant. They simplify quantum error correction by allowing errors to be corrected independently for each qubit. This system establishes the groundwork for error-corrected quantum computing. In addition, to assist in assessing and preparing algorithms for the era of error correction, QuEra will release a cloud-based logical qubit simulator in the first half of 2024.
  • “2025: An enhanced model with 30 logical error-corrected qubits with magic state distillation, supported by over 3000 physical qubits. Magic state distillation enables the implementation of a broader range of quantum gates with higher fidelity, allowing for the execution of non-Clifford gates, which are crucial for universal quantum.
  • “2026: Introduction of a third-generation QEC model with 100 logical qubits and over 10,000 physical qubits. This development, capable of deep logical circuits, will push quantum computing beyond the simulatability limit, ushering in a new era of discovery and innovation.”

The new cloud-based logical qubit simulator, says QuEra, will allow researchers to explore which code is best for them. “There’s a trade-off between how many physical qubits you need for use for each logical qubit, how good the errors are, and so on and so on. So, we’re going to open it up and let researchers contribute to our understanding of that,” said Yuval Boger, QuEra CMO. The big jump of course will come when the full 100-logical-qubit QuEra machine is available.

Kessling said, “There’s some applications that we know [will work] at larger scales, because we can predict mathematically what it’s going to take us to get there. But there’s an unexplored area, because we don’t have yet the mathematical tools to predict what a quantum computer will be able to do, what the right applications at that point will be [at large scale]. [While], this emphasizes the importance of developing algorithms in the upcoming years with 10 and 30 qubits where we still have a sense of what’s happening, I think at the [100 logical qubit scale] this will be a new tool with no precedent. That’s where quantum computing will become extremely exciting, because it’s the point at which we can start doing things we’re not thinking about now because of how hard they are.”

QuEra calls this Practical Quantum Advantage on its roadmap.

Think of it not as fully formed applications, but as the capability to run quantum computers at a scale such that new things can be done – the result of these explorations, said Kessling, should be new learning, new algorithms, new applications, and new targets of interest.

Aquila 256-qubit quantum computer, Credit: QuEra

The leap from 256 qubits to 10,000 physical qubits and effective error correction schemes seems like a daunting challenge to accomplish in three years. QuEra insists that the engineering required to scale up the number of qubits is do-able and less complicated than on other systems. The atoms, of course, are tiny. The ability to move atoms around keeps improving.

“We have these simultaneous, sometimes called transversal gates, where we can bring two groups of qubits together, and with one laser pulse operating on all of them – that goes to efficiency. We don’t require cryogenic cooling. So, this works at room temperature, and we can get the large number of qubits with no interconnects. These are all the positives. All the atoms are identical by definition. The downside of neutral atom computing is clock speed,” said Boger

Kessling said, “There’s two questions to ask. One is the physical qubit modality. The other is the architecture, and what Yuval was describing about being able to move groups of atoms, being able to separate different zones, and have very few classical controls needed to be able to run arbitrary algorithms. These are all architectural considerations that are enabled by using neutral atoms.

“The question of clock speed, of course, is a real one. It’s something that we spend our time thinking about how to overcome. In the near future, I think that just being able to run algorithms with 10s or hundreds of logical qubits, regardless of the speed, is the primary goal. The clock cycle is something that that the neutral atom platform will have to improve on. We’ve started doing some work towards that, but it’s too preliminary to share what our approach to that will be,” he said.

Having put the roadmap numbers out there, the competitive scrutiny will no doubt ramp up. There are, of course, other public quantum technology roadmaps and it’s not always easy to conduct apples-to-apples comparisons.

One indication of QuEra’s confidence is its plan to offer on-premise deployment of systems.

Said Boger, “I would suspect that in the next couple of months we will announce the first on-prem deal, likely outside the US. That’s sort of a big thing for QuEra in terms of the maturity. We’ve spent the last year gaining expertise in operating quantum computers. We went from 10 hours a week on Amazon to more than 100 hours a week. So basically, the system almost runs itself by now. Now we feel comfortable taking that technology and delivering it off site. When you think about rough timelines, you could say if something was demonstrated at Harvard, together with us in year zero, then a year later it will be working at QuEra and available for remote access to select customers, and at year two, meaning a year later, it could be available for on-prem delivery. That’s how we think about the transition from the lab to the field.”

QuEra hasn’t said much about its collaborators. It is on seven Darpa IMPACT (Imagining Practical Applications for a Quantum Tomorrow) projects.

Kessling said, “We have collaborators on the commercial and the academic/public side. On the academic side, I think it’s very clear that we’ve been doing joint work together with Harvard with MIT. We’re also working with a group at UCLA, actually on more of this error correction from a computational perspective. On the commercial side, where we have some NDAs. We have different companies we’re working together on the error correction side, like the codes and algorithms that you were describing, on accessing modes to the technology, [and] even on integrating specialized hardware into our systems.”

It’s fascinating to wonder how the growing competition between qubit modalities and their champions will play out. The superconducting qubit camp has many years of experience and is advancing quickly although error-correction remains a challenge. The trapped ion companies are likewise experienced and venturing deeper into the market.

Kessling recognizes that progress is being made on many QC development fronts.

“That’s what we’re seeing already. I think we’re at a point where we’re there’s enough to be done and to be learned about quantum computing and industry really to develop that. It supports all of these different modalities. We see, even on the on the cloud servers that we’re available, there’s other quantum computers there. I think the space is there. The progress for all platforms has been quite consistent.

“I do think that progress for our platform has been fastest and that’s what gives us you know, a lot of confidence in where we see our future. But absolutely, there are different customers that have different types of problems that they will want to run on the different available platforms that they have. I think it’s only over time that [we’ll start] seeing the performance be consistently best using one approach. I believe that will be the QuEra approach, that the market will start narrowing in more and more into building all of the tools and middleware and, and other surrounding products for that technology. That’s really what’s going to make it stand out and continue to thrive, as others, you know, have to find their, their niche.”

Stay tuned.

QUICK SUMMARY OF RECENT HARVARD WORK

Harvard Executes EC Algorithm using 48 Logical Qubits

Effective error correction/mitigation has become, perhaps, the central challenge in quantum computing. Neutral atom-based QC specialist, QuEra, reported last month that work led by Harvard University in collaboration with QuEra, MIT, and NIST/UMD, successfully executed large-scale algorithms on an error-corrected quantum computer with 48 logical qubits and hundreds of entangling logical operations.

The researchers cite these highlights:

  • Creation and entanglement of the largest logical qubits to date, demonstrating a code distance of 7, enabling the detection and correction of arbitrary errors occurring during the entangling logical gate operations. Larger code distances imply higher resistance to quantum errors. The research showed for the first time that increasing the code distance indeed reduces the error rate in logical operations.
  • Realization of 48 small logical qubits that were used to execute complex algorithms, surpassing the performance of the same algorithms when executed with physical qubits.
  • Construction of 40 medium-sized error-correcting codes by controlling 280 physical qubits.

The work was reported in Nature (Logical quantum processor based on reconfigurable atom arrays).

Here’s the abstract:

“[W]e report the realization of a programmable quantum processor based on encoded logical qubits operating with up to 280 physical qubits. Utilizing logical-level control and a zoned architecture in reconfigurable neutral atom arrays, our system combines high two-qubit gate fidelities, arbitrary connectivity, as well as fully programmable single-qubit rotations and mid-circuit readout. Operating this logical processor with various types of encodings, we demonstrate improvement of a two-qubit logic gate by scaling surface code distance from d = 3 to d = 7, preparation of color code qubits with break-even fidelities5, fault-tolerant creation of logical GHZ states and feedforward entanglement teleportation, as well as operation of 40 color code qubits.

“Finally, using three-dimensional code blocks, we realize computationally complex sampling circuits with up to 48 logical qubits entangled with hypercube connectivity with 228 logical two-qubit gates and 48 logical CCZ gates. We find that this logical encoding substantially improves algorithmic performance with error detection, outperforming physical qubit fidelities at both cross-entropy benchmarking and quantum simulations of fast scrambling.”

The researchers say these results herald the “advent of early error-corrected quantum computation and chart a path toward large-scale logical processors.”

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