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The widely anticipated quantum internet breakthrough is finally here

A Delft University spinout is commercialising a quantum modem that can link quantum machines into superfast networks.

By Maija Palmer

Credit: Image by Rebekka Mell

If you thought quantum computing was a leap forward, get ready for the next step: the quantum internet, where quantum machines can be linked to each other to create powerful networks of superfast computing power.

The vision is now even closer to becoming reality. QphoX, a Delft University spinout, has created a quantum modem that can get these machines talking to each other. It plans to be the first to take it out of the research lab and turn it into a commercial project — and has raised €2m seed round to build the company.

“Scaling a quantum computer even beyond 100 qubits is hard at the moment, but you could link 10 together to get 1k.”

It is the next big step in quantum computing. Today’s biggest quantum computers have less than 100 qubits, but scientists say that the machines will need at least 1k qubits to be truly commercially useful. Scaling up the computers themselves will take time, but a quantum internet could connect smaller machines to get to 1k+ qubits faster.

“Scaling a quantum computer even beyond 100 qubits is hard at the moment, but you could link 10 together to get 1k,” says Simon Gröblacher, CEO and cofounder of QphoX. Gröblacher says they expect to have a working modem ready for customers to test within two years.

The seed funding round was led by Quantonation, Speedinvest and High-Tech Gründerfonds, with participation from TU Delft.

“The €2m is earmarked for moving the technology from the university research lab to a company, and hiring additional people. We need to mature the technology and create proper software around it,” said Gröblacher. QphoX has recently expanded from just its three cofounders to a team of six, and is looking to recruit a handful more people.

The company is currently in discussions to run pilots with a number of quantum computer companies.

QphoX expects to have a working modem ready for customers to test within two years.

“That was one of the things that reassured our investors, the positive feedback from potential customers that this isn’t some random idea, they could see there is a real need for this solution,” Gröblacher said.

The modem is designed in the first instance to work with machines using superconducting qubits, but will in theory also connect to other types of quantum computer, such as those based on spin or topological qubits — anything that works with microwave frequencies.

The secret is in being able to convert the microwave frequency readouts from a quantum processor and turn these into optical signals that can be transmitted down optical fibre networks. This all happens on a small chip that can sit just outside the quantum computing cryostat (the freezer that keeps the qubits at temperatures close to absolute zero).

It would be able to not only link quantum processors together but also link processors to quantum memory systems and other parts of the computer system.

“It is hard to see a winner-takes-all company in quantum computing — it is hard enough to build a quantum processor, and so it is likely you will have different companies developing different parts. They will need to be able to talk to each other,” said Gröblacher.

“The quantum-transducer has the potential to become an indispensable component of the quantum computing architecture.”

Olaf Joeressen, Senior Investment Manager at High-Tech Gründerfonds, said: “The Qphox team is on a journey to make quantum computing scalable and provide real world impact soon based on their groundbreaking research. In our view, the quantum-transducer from QphoX has the potential to become an indispensable component of the quantum computing architecture of the future.”

One of the main goals for the QphoX team now is to get the conversion from microwave to optical to be more efficient.

“We are clear on how to do it, it is just a case of engineering it and putting it together,” said Gröblacher.

While a number of research groups are working on quantum modem concepts, QphoX believes it will be the first to commercialise the technology.

Maija Palmer is Sifted’s innovation editor. She covers deeptech and corporate innovation, and tweets from @maijapalmer

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Karoly
Karoly

The internet brought us people who are addicted to pornography, used as weapons, creating a generation that can be overwhelmed with too much stimulation (science is proving that the brain can only take an so much visual stimulation) distracted dangerous drivers. Now what can you do with true quantum computers. How about braking nuclear codes, hacking (unbreakable) block chains. Couple quantum computing with ai machine learning killer sataliites and robotics. bingo we would then have a worst scenerio science fiction like disaster! Man always comes up with great inventions that help us distroy each other. “Seek God and live” we… Read more »

Doug Root
Doug Root

There will always be skeptics on anything that breaks with entrenched ways to do or accomplish anything. Very difficult technical problems are seen not as mere dreams by a suficient number of extremely talented and bright engineers, processor architects, programmers, physicists, and business people. Individually and collective teams will figure out the biggest challenges in quantum computing. The breakthroughs are now happening more quickly than the world anticipated. it is an international arms race worth the effort by large and small companies the world over. i will not have to summon much courage to bet that Countries including the United… Read more »

Leong Kf
Leong Kf

I am amaze of this and has been catching up to Quantum evolution & computing by reading a lot of scientifics research alike.

I hope to reach out more on your development progresses just for my curiosity

John Sellers
John Sellers

Here is what I think: There is a lot of over stated hype in this article. That is whoever it is that is pushing this hype isn’t really thinking through the implications of the large numbers involved in the mathematical laws of combination and permutation. Do you know how many “connections” is implied from the claim? That would be 10^20 connections among the qubits that the author is conflagrating in the confusion between entangled pairs of quantum states, and superimposition of 1000 qubits. The entangled pairs is something that scientists are doing all over the globe. On the other hand,… Read more »

Mark
Mark

I don’t know what terminally overused buzzword I’m more sick of at the moment: “quantum” or “crypto”.

Ron
Ron

Will this be more or less secure than what we have now, which I consider pathetic ?

Tony
Tony

Quantum computing is yet to do anything but create random numbers quickly. Color me skeptical.

Home
Home

It’s coming… And it will be to normal binary like flying a jet through a field of butterflies…

Evilthor
Evilthor

Quantum computers today are like the brick of cell phones. Just wait a few years