Fundamental research is often time-consuming and labor-intensive, but nevertheless crucial for technological progress. An example of this could be observed in the future at the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics. They have been working there for decades to better understand the physics within the quantum world of atoms, ions, electrons and protons. Because many scientific questions in this area have not yet been definitively clarified. However, larger and more complex quantum systems cannot be simulated well with classical computers. The researchers were therefore satisfied with analog simulations in which they easily mimicked the quantum systems of many quantum particles themselves. Again, this is easier said than done. Work in this area has been going on for many years and is far from over. Nevertheless, the scientists were able to gain important insights into laser construction and quantum gas microscopes.
The startup is taking a different approach than the industry giants
This is exactly where the commercially promising part comes in. The simulations developed by the researchers basically function like a quantum computer. That is why the startup palnqc has now been launched to actually develop a powerful quantum computer. Tech giants such as Google and IBM have been working on this for some time. However, the researchers from Munich are confident that they can compete with the industry giants. Because they rely on their own technology, which is based on the experience gained during fundamental research in the quantum world. At the beginning of the process, sodium is heated in an oven to create an atomic beam. Using electromagnetic fields and lasers, the neutral atoms are then slowed down and held in a vacuum chamber. Here, the individual atoms can then be viewed through a quantum gas microscope and can also be controlled and changed in a targeted manner using lasers.
Some challenges still need to be overcome
In this way, quantum algorithms can be executed. The neutral atoms thus take over the task of the qubits – the smallest computational unit of a quantum computer. The researchers in Munich are confident that they can build a quantum computer with thousands of qubits relatively quickly. This would then already be able to solve real problems of industrial customers. Before that, however, there are still a number of challenges to overcome. On the one hand, the neutral atoms must be forced into a three-dimensional grid structure. The more individual atoms there are, the more difficult this becomes. In addition, the individual qubits must be arranged very close to each other. This makes it difficult to target them with a laser beam. But this is crucial. Because if the beam just hits another qubit, the results are wrong. The researchers have already been able to solve this problem in the laboratory. Now they want to do the same with a commercial product.