A team of researchers and engineers at the Canadian company Xanadu Quantum Technologies Inc., working with the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, has developed a programmable scalable photonic quantum chip that can execute multiple algorithms.
Engineers around the world are working to create a truly useful quantum computer that can perform computations that would take a traditional computer millions of years to complete. To date, most of these efforts have focused on two main architectures – based on superconducting electrical circuits and based on trapped ion technology. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and both must operate in a supercooled environment, making them difficult to scale.
Less attention is paid to work based on the photonic approach to building a quantum computer. This approach is considered less feasible due to the problems associated with the generation of quantum states, as well as with the transformation of such states on demand. One big advantage of photonics-based systems over the other two architectures is that they don’t need to be cooled — they can operate at room temperature.
In this new effort, Xanadu engineers overcame some of the challenges associated with photonics-based systems and created a working programmable photonic quantum chip that can execute multiple algorithms and can also scale. They named it the X8 Photonic Quantum Processing Unit. During operation, the chip connects to what the Xanadu team describes as a “compressed light source” – infrared laser pulses that work with microscopic resonators. This is because the new system performs continuous variable quantum computation rather than using single-photon generators.
Xanadu representatives noted that their new system is the first photonic quantum computing platform to go public. Those who wish to run applications on it can choose systems with 8 or 12 qubits on top of the Xanadu quantum cloud.