Two major players in IT and research are trying to lay the foundations for a future quantum internet.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) partners with Harvard University testing and developing strategies for networking quantum technologies. Their partnership was announced today and continues AWS’s goals of creating a communication channel between the quantum computers on which he is also working in parallel.
During the three-year research alliance, Amazon’s funding will support research projects at Harvard that focus on quantum memory, integrated photonics, and quantum materials, and help upgrade the infrastructure of Harvard. Nanoscale Systems Center.
“Quantum networks are a very specific area of research that requires a different focus compared to quantum computing,” Simone Severinidirector, quantum technologies at AWS, said in a statement. Exhibit particular quantum qualities like overlay or entanglement, the objects must be very small or very cold. The quantum networks being tested today use photons, or particles of light, to communicate quantum states over long distances.
This is not the first time that Amazon has sought an academic partner for its quantum projects. Last October, AWS announced it was moving to the Caltech campus to establish the Amazon Web Service Quantum Computing Center. Based in Pasadena, California, Amazon and Caltech are designing and building a “fault-tolerant” quantum computer.
Quantum computers are a promising approach to perform certain tasks such as optimizing the design of materials or searching in a database. This is due to the unique characteristics of qubits – the basic units of quantum memory – such as superposition, or the ability to be zero and one at the same time, as well as entanglement. However, qubits are extremely sensitive and can be easily disturbed by environmental noise, causing them to lose their special properties. The stability of these qubits and other factors set the limit on the size of a calculation that can be performed on a given system. Currently, the AWS-Caltech team is working on small prototype-level error-corrected systems that are on their way to becoming more reliable machines.
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AWS uses superconducting circuits with gates to make the processors for their quantum computers. But with this approach, a big challenge arises with the materials. Much of the noise and defects are located at the interfaces between the various substrates of the quantum processor.
“The error rates that we currently have in physical hardware are at the level of 1% or 0.5%, every time you operate a door,” and that’s way too high, says Oskar Painter, director quantum hardware at AWS.
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To achieve better results and reduce noise, the design and manufacture of these hardware materials must be optimized, in the same way that microchips have been improved in the field of microelectronics.
Additionally, to improve their quantum computers, the team must find clever ways to configure the quantum gates. This is where the concept of “error correction” comes in. “A gate is the fundamental unit that we use to perform logic, just like in a typical computer, where you have a transistor that is going to implement some sort of ‘OR’ or ‘AND Gate’ – you have a similar analog for a quantum computer,” says Painter. “Error correction involves taking the physical hardware, [and] program it to form logical qubits. These would be made up of blocks of physical qubits programmed to perform logical operations. “These logical qubits are better protected from noise due to redundancy and other special properties that you engineer into them,” Painter notes.
For Amazon, the hope is that it can research and develop the supporting infrastructure for quantum computers alongside the computer itself. The latest partnership is a way to experiment with setting up a preliminary network that would allow machines to be connected. In addition to partnering with Harvard on a quantum network, researchers from AWS Center for Quantum Networking sought ways to engineer better quantum memory technology to enable new hardware, software, and applications for quantum networks that “connect and amplify the capabilities of individual quantum processors”.
Amazon and Harvard aren’t the only ones interested in a quantum internet. A consortium of institutions in and around Chicago unveiled a 124-mile quantum network earlier this summer to test ways to send quantum information. The US government has also has signaled continued interest in the advancement of quantum information science.