PASQAL Issues Roadmap to 10,000 Qubits in 2026 and Fault Tolerance in 2028

By John Russell

March 13, 2024

Paris-based PASQAL, a developer of neutral atom-based quantum computers, yesterday issued a roadmap for delivering systems with 10,000 physical qubits in 2026 and full fault-tolerance operation using 128-plus logical qubits in the 2028 timeframe. The company also announced plans to launch its “Quantum Community” this year, reviewed its progress in algorithm development, and touted its rapid geographic expansion.

“With a strong focus on engineering, PASQAL takes the neutral atom technology out of the labs. This approach enables us to continuously increase the performance of our machines and bring stable and efficient solutions to our users”, said Loïc Henriet, Co-CEO of PASQAL, in the official announcement.

Coinciding with the press release, PASQAL held a webinar to present its progress and plans. Shown below is its new roadmap.

Yesterday’s webinar, presided over by Georges-Olivier Reymond, co-founder and co-CEO, Henriet, co-CEO, and Panagiotis Barkoutsos SVP, quantum algorithms and use cases, provided few technical details of its hardware and software plans, but showcased use-cases and algorithms progress. The company says it has more than 50 collaborators from Fortune 500 companies. Pasqal promotes itself as a full stack quantum company with development spanning hardware, tools, applications, and training.

“We created the company with this vision that the technology could deliver value to the market now, and today, we have the first evidence that this strategy is paying off,” said Reymond during the webinar. “From the pioneers in neutral atoms, we grew up into an organization of more than 200 employees with a global footprint. Pascal is already present in four regions. (France, Canada, South Korea, U.S.)”

“Let’s look at the software stack — the key component that makes quantum computing widely accessible. When we build libraries, quantum algorithms that are solving mathematical problems, and that are abstracting the quantum complexity, [Pasqal focuses on ensuring] they can be harnessed without quantum background to develop your own applications. At the highest level, we propose a platform and API, and the [quantum] computers are available remotely or on-premise in your data center or directly at your facilities,” said Reymond.

Founded in 2019, PASQAL is one of several neutral atom specialist QC companies that have been touting progress and aggressively pushing to gain mindshare in the increasingly crowed QC community. At least three of these companies, now including PASQAL, have issued ambitious development roadmaps. QuEra, a Boston-based company, debuted its roadmap to 10,000 physical qubits and 100 logical qubits in January. Infleqtion (formerly ColdQuanta) unveiled its roadmap in February. Atom Computing announced it had created a 1,225-site (qubit) atomic array in October.

One thing these companies have in common, at least for the moment, is their existing systems are  primarily used as analog quantum computers, which is to say not gate-based. Most are also developing gate-based systems, sometimes also called digital systems. Keeping track of the vernacular can be confusing in what’s an increasingly global quantum developer community. Whether analog or gate-based (digital), virtually all of the quantum world has embraced the notion of hybrid HPC-QC computing, meaning pieces of an application will be solved on classical hardware and other pieces on quantum hardware.

The analog computing mode does not require active error correction — the giant speed bump slowing down gate-based systems development and deployment— and has proven amenable to quantum simulation and select optimization applications, as well as relative ease of use in hybrid quantum-HPC approaches. It’s also shown promise in quantum machine learning approaches. PASQAL, and others, are betting on these qualities to enable them to derive quantum advantage (sufficiently better than classical computing) in the current noisy intermediate scale quantum (NISQ) era.

Longer term, there’s general consensus that gate-based, universal quantum computing will prove vastly more powerful, but that day still seems distant.

PASQAL uses rubidium atoms for its qubits. Very simply, the atoms are placed into an evacuated chamber. Lasers are used to manipulate the atoms, cooling (slowing) them to near-zero and positioning them in 2-D arrays. Lasers and microwave pulses are used to excite the atoms to put them into a 1 or 0 state. The atoms (qubits) can be pumped up into a Rydberg state and be entangled with other atoms by overlapping their Rydberg states with neighboring atoms. The devil, of course, is in the details. The required instrumentation — optics, magnetics, control electronic, pressure chamber — to do all of this can be quite complex.

Neutral atoms advantages include being naturally identical (hence no manufacturing inconsistency worries), long coherence times, and that they can be housed in less exotic (room temperature) settings. The atoms themselves must be kept quite cool (still) but that’s done optically and doesn’t require costly dilution refrigerators. Disadvantages include relatively slow cycle times and the need to move the atoms around and challenges scaling.

Henriet described the PASQAL system:

“The whole device is around two meter high, about three meters long and one and a half meters wide. It’s weighs as much as a small car and currently contains around 100 cubits. Electronic and laser control systems are located in standard racks on both sides of the device. The center part contains the optical core. The green part that you’ll see in the video is the vacuum chamber, which is where the quantum information processing phase occurs. So here the pressure is kept near zero. This enables us to trap rubidium atoms, organize them in space and use them to create qubits. Laser beams are used to trap move the atoms in space and also drive the qubit transitions.

“Here you’re looking at what we call the quantum register. Report register is formed by an N symbol of atoms that we use to perform the computation. So each dot here corresponds to one rubidium atom that is trapped at a given position. To convert those atoms into qubit, to encode quantum information, we use selected electronic states. So the zero state corresponds to an electronic level; the one state corresponds to another level, an excited state. To create entanglement between the qubits, we use natural interactions between those excited others. This natural phenomenon gives us a controllable and programmable spin Hamiltonian.

“One can directly use the Hamiltonian of the system as a resource for computation. So this is the so called analog mode. In that mode, you can tune continuously the parameters of the Hamiltonian in order to generate a given quantum dynamics. This mode has proven to be extremely powerful for quoting simulation purposes, when one wants to answer fundamental Quantum Questions, so questions which are quoting by nature.”

(For a more complete description of the PASQAL approach, see its paper (Quantum computing with neutral atoms) on arXiv. Here’s link to the recorded webinar.)

PASQAL currently provides access to its QPU, simulators, and tools via PASQAL Cloud Services, hosted on prominent European cloud provider, OVHcloud, as well as on AWS Braket now, and soon to be available on Microsoft Azure (currently in private preview). The company is also installing two on-premise systems in France (GENCI/CEA) and Germany (FZJ) as part of the European HPQCS project. The two later systems will be coupled respectively with the Joliot-Curie and JURECA DC supercomputers.

Much of the webinar was spent briefly reviewing early POC collaborations. “EDF, the French electricity utility, our very first client, no later than last Friday they could see the quantum computer running live their application. BASF, the German chemical company, we helped them improve the prediction of weather patterns. And finally, the Pascal Challenge [in which] 800 students developed 70 new applications in only two months using Pascal it’s easy-to-use tools. Very few of them had experiences with Quantum. This is a clear evidence. But now quantum computing is accessible for the masses,” said Reymond.

Like all of the quantum community, PASQAL is eager to move into commercialization.

Reymond said, “We have three main milestones for this year. The first one is to have a customer willing to push a use case into production. The second one is to deliver the on-premise devices, and we are on track to deliver this. Finally, the third milestones is to develop more applications — for us applications are really the path to go to market and to o build the ecosystem.”

Stay tuned.

Link to recording of PASQAL webinar, https://youtu.be/QB3p2i2bVzk

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