Photography: Marieke de Lorijn voor QuTech
innovation

The first European online quantum computer platform

4 May 2020 • 3 min reading time

Leading universities and quantum hubs from China to America and the Netherlands are working on the development of a usable quantum computer. Within QuTech, TNO is working on innovative quantum technology in collaboration with Delft University of Technology and with some success, because a new version of the ‘Quantum Inspire’ quantum computing platform was launched on 20 April 2020. It is, in fact, the first European quantum computer platform that is generally accessible online.

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If you would like to find out more about the quantum computing platform called Quantum Inspire, please contact Richard Versluis.

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Whereas a classical computer calculates using bits, which are units of digital information that can have a value of 0 or 1, quantum bits (qubits) can be 0 and 1 at the same time. This means that qubits can collectively be located in a superposition of all possible states and that gives quantum computers huge computational speed.

The potential added value of quantum computers

How does it work? When, for example, it comes to solving a route through a maze, all the options can be assessed simultaneously, instead of one by one. Consequently, quantum computers have the potential to solve complex problems which are practically insolvable for classical computers. Thanks to the computational power of qubits, a quantum computer can, for example, help solve complicated algorithms and traffic problems and can help look for medicines for serious illnesses.

“With 50 qubits, you could perform calculations which are impossible for a classical computer”

However, we are not quite there yet. The first prototypes of quantum computers, with a limited number of qubits, are gradually being launched. You can perform simple calculations with 2 qubits, but with 50 qubits you could perform calculations which are impossible for a classical computer. However, millions of qubits are probably needed to compensate their inherent instability and a great deal of research and advanced control electronics are required to facilitate this scaling up.

Quantum Inspire

The QuTech partnership is focusing on advanced research in the field of quantum computing and quantum Internet. One of the QuTech successes is the quantum computing platform called Quantum Inspire (QI). Quantum Inspire provides users with access to various technologies which enable them to perform quantum calculations, gain an insight into the principles of quantum computing and become members of the community.

“We’re the first European online quantum computer and the first to provide two different technologies.”

‘This means interested parties can themselves now start working on writing algorithms and find out more about quantum technology,’ explains Richard Versluis, principal systems engineer at TNO. ‘Quantum Inspire has now been running with a simulator for one and a half years but switched, on 20 April 2020, to a system in which two different types of qubit chips are connected to superconducting and semiconducting (electron spin) qubits. Although we’re not the first quantum computer in the ‘cloud’, nor the largest in terms of the number of qubits, we’re the first European online quantum computer and the first to provide these two different technologies.’

Launch event of the Quantum Inspire

Superconducting and semiconducting qubits

The qubit chips make up the deepest layer (hardware) of Quantum Inspire which also includes a control layer and web interface. After years of work, QuTech has managed to develop thumb sized chips which can accommodate 2 qubits. Because they are based on so-called standard IC (integrated circuit) technology, they will be large enough for many millions of qubits in the future.

“The expectation is that it will be possible to scale up the semiconducting qubits more robustly and more effectively.”

‘The ultimate test will be to link the chips to Quantum Inspire. It will integrate all our activities,’ asserts TU Delft professor, Leonardo DiCarlo. ‘Whereas other quantum computers use superconducting qubits, the less developed semiconductor approach is actually more interesting. The expectation is that it will be possible to scale up these qubits more robustly and more effectively and that, of course, is important in order to achieve substantial computational power,’ adds Lieven Vandersypen, who is also a professor at TU Delft and roadmap leader for Fault-tolerant Quantum Computing at QuTech.

Cooperation within QuTech

‘The complementary expertise which TNO and we as TU Delft are contributing is clear. Now we’ve been collaborating for more than five years within QuTech, we’ve learned how we can cooperate synergistically in order to maximise the impact of our varied set of skills,’ Leonardo DiCarlo explains. Lieven Vandersypen is also extremely happy with how the partnership is going. ‘Quantum Inspire has given us a shared goal, namely, to build a system that is available 24/7. Although it has taken longer than thought, due to various technical challenges, I’m happy with what we’ve achieved and the drive shown by TNO. It’s also interesting to see how each of us has our own approach,’ Lieven Vandersypen adds.

‘We at TNO have also found the collaboration on Quantum Inspire and within QuTech to be extremely positive. It’s very valuable to be able to combine our knowledge about quantum technology with the excellent know-how at TU Delft. Within QuTech, we have the most advanced hardware platform and the best theoretical tools, but the greatest benefit is the outstanding team. Together we can accelerate developments relating to quantum technology,’ thinks Richard Versluis. ‘Quantum Inspire demonstrates what can be achieved if people from different disciplines put their heads together,’ Leonardo DiCarlo emphasises in conclusion.

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