In a pair of forward-looking articles, Christopher Monroe, Jungsang Kim, and Kenneth Brown layout the only known method for scaling quantum computers based on demonstrated science and technology. The proposed architecture is based on trapped atomic ion qubits, highlighting the need for “co-design” of applications to the machine and modularity.
The cover portrays a photograph of a surface trap that was fabricated by Sandia National Labs and used to trap ions at the Duke Quantum Center and IonQ, among other laboratories.
- “Scaling the Ion Trap Quantum Processor,” C. Monroe and J. Kim, Science 339, 1164 (2013).
- “Co-designing a Scalable Quantum Computer with Trapped Atomic Ions,” K. R. Brown, J. Kim, and C. Monroe, Nature Quantum Information 2, 16034 (2016).
- See also, “Quantum Connections and the Modular Quantum Computer,” C. Monroe, R. J. Schoelkopf, and M. D. Lukin, Scientific American, p. 50 (May, 2016)
- Video animation of trapped ion quantum computer concept
It’s just a five-qubit quantum computer, and anything it does is easily simulated on a laptop. However, these trapped ion qubits are fully connected, with entangling gates between all possible pairs. The qubits are dynamically “wired” from the outside with patterns of laser beams, so we can run any algorithm through software without modifying the base hardware. While the individual gate operations are only about 98% pure, it should be possible to exceed the >99.9% purity others have demonstrated with two isolated ions. Most importantly, we have blueprints for scaling this system up to useful dimensions.
Modularity is everywhere, from social networks and transportation hubs to biological function. Modular systems are always necessary for mitigating complexity, especially in computer systems where the latest processors have up to 256 modular cores. We propose a realistic modular quantum computing design that is scalable to huge numbers of qubits, while resistant to errors. Entanglement within a module is afforded through local phonon interactions, which can be extended to other qubit modules through photonic interfaces. Experimentally, we report the first step in such an architecture by entangling remote ions in different ion traps while also showing local entanglement between ions in a single ion trap module as a demonstration of both photon and phonon buses in a single network. The entanglement rate between modules is nearly 10/sec, orders of magnitude faster than previous results, and much faster than the observed decoherence rate, thus representing the first demonstration of a scalable quantum network in any photonic platform. Moreover, we show how to phase-lock gates over space and time between multiple modules, a crucial prerequisite for scalability. We finally show that even if the photons from different modules have different optical frequencies, entanglement fidelity of the linked quantum memories can be recovered, without sacrificing entanglement rate, by feed-forwarding timing information on the coincidence interference.