Australian quantum computing manufacturer, Silicon Quantum Computing (SQC), has developed the world’s first integrated circuit manufactured at the atomic scale.
The circuit, which operates as an analogue quantum processor, has come less than a decade after SQC’s 2012 declaration that it had fabricated 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 – definitively proving the validity of the company’s technology for modelling 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.
“Development of SQC’s atomic-scale circuit technology will allow the company and its customers to construct quantum models for a range of new materials, whether they be pharmaceuticals, materials for batteries, or catalysts. It won’t be long before we can start to realise 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 first postulated by pioneering theoretical physicist Professor Richard Feynman in his famous 1959 lecture Plenty of Room at the Bottom.
The physicist argued that to understand how nature works, you have to be able to control matter at the same length scales from which matter is constructed – i.e. at the length scale of atoms. Six decades on, The SQC team have proven out this conjecture 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, which subsequently allows the scaling of quantum computing hardware.
Simmons said the Sydney startup’s achievement also validates its atomic manufacturing capabilities in integrating multiple atomic components within a single device.
“The exquisite precision of the device validates SQC’s technical strategy to focus on quality as opposed to quantity,” she said.
“We have created a superbly precise manufacturing technology that is opening the door to a whole new world. It is a huge step towards building a commercial quantum computer,” said Simmons.
Silicon Quantum Computing chair 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.
“To reach such a landmark two years ahead of schedule is a triumph,” he said.
“SQC’s engineers are now scaling the technology to address more industrially relevant molecules and as a business we look forward to developing targeted industry partnerships to address their simulation needs.”
SQC launched in May 2017, and operates out of 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 device and is now scaling its quantum hardware to take on heavy duty computational tasks that cannot be performed by traditional computers.