“With the general availability of Amazon Braket, our quantum computers will be commercially available to the public for the first time. Our trapped-ion technology is backed by decades of scientific progress, and we are excited that more customers than ever can access our ion-based computers through AWS to scale the use of this technology.”
Peter Chapman, President and CEO of IonQ
IonQ is a leader in quantum computing. By making our quantum hardware accessible through the cloud, we’re empowering organizations and developers to solve the world’s most complex problems in chemistry and materials simulation, logistics and optimization, pharmaceutical and security applications.
Leveraging IonQ’s nature-based approach, our systems provide both a viable technological roadmap to scale and the flexibility necessary to explore a wide range of application spaces in the near term.
IonQ uses perfect atomic qubits drawn from nature, suspended in a vacuum and connected by lasers, eliminating the need to manufacture or fine-tune the qubits synthetically. We have also successfully constructed and demonstrated a fully programmable universal gate set quantum computer architecture. Our approach does not require a breakthrough in physics, material science or manufacturing and negates any environmental stressors.
The execution of computational tasks on our quantum computer is accomplished by programming the sequence of laser pulses used to implement each quantum gate operation. Our system architecture enables gate operations between an arbitrary set of qubits in the system, making it a highly versatile computing machine that can efficiently run a wide range of quantum algorithms.
IonQ’s trapped-ion approach to quantum computing starts with ionized ytterbium atoms. Two internal states of these identical atoms make up the qubits, the most important part of any quantum computer. Each ytterbium atom is perfectly identical to every other ytterbium atom in the universe. We first strip an electron from the atom to turn it into an ion, and use a specialized chip called a linear ion trap to hold it precisely in 3D space. The trap features around 100 tiny electrodes precisely designed, fabricated, and controlled to produce electromagnetic forces that hold our ions in place, isolated from the environment to minimize environmental noise and decoherence.
Once the first ion is in place, we can then load any number of ions into a linear chain. This on-demand reconfigurability allows us to theoretically create anything from a one-qubit system to a 100+ qubit system (not currently available) without having to fabricate a new chip or change the underlying hardware. Once the atoms are trapped, we can prepare them in any quantum state, and they remain in that state indefinitely as long as the qubits are adequately isolated from the environment. Before we can use our ions to perform quantum computations, we have to prepare them for the task. This involves two steps: cooling, to reduce computational noise, and state preparation, which initializes each ion into a well-defined “zero” state, ready for use.
We perform gate operations with an array of individual laser beams, each imaged onto an individual ion, plus one “global” beam. The interference between the two beams produces a control signal that can kick the qubits into a different state. We can manipulate the state of the ions to create single and two-qubit gates. To date, we’ve run single-qubit gates on a 79-ion chain, and complex algorithms consisting of multiple two-qubit gates on chains of up to 11 ions. Once the computation has been performed, reading the result is done by shining a resonant laser on all of the ions to collapse the quantum information to one of two states. Collecting and measuring this light allows us to simultaneously read the collapsed state of every ion — one of these states glows in response to the laser light, the other does not. We interpret the result as a binary string. In order to isolate the atomic ion qubits from the environment, we put the trap inside an ultra-high vacuum chamber, pumped down to pressures of around 10-11 Torr. At this pressure, there are fewer molecules in a given volume than in outer space.
Figure 1. Superimposed ions on an ion trap
Figure 2. The ion trap, mouting hardware, and vaccum chamber of an IonQ QPU
Figure 3. A close-up of an ion trap mounted inside an IonQ QPU