Israeli researchers build the country’s first quantum computer

An Israeli team of scientists has built the country’s first quantum computer, a major achievement the result of many years of research, according to Professor Roee Ozeri of the Weizmann Institute of Science, a quantum computer research expert at the Department of Complex Systems Physics.

Ozeri told The times of Israel in a phone interview Tuesday that he and a team of PhD students from his university lab had been working on the various components of the computer for several years and had spent the last two to three years assembling the device.

“A lot of time has been invested in knowing how and setting up the building blocks of the quantum computer,” he said. The project was led by quantum computer researcher Dr. Tom Manovitz and student Yotam Shapira and published Tuesday in PRX Quantum, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Physical Society (APS).

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The device is one of about 30 quantum computers that exist around the world, at various stages, and one – in less than ten – to use ion traps, a groundbreaking technology that restricts ions (molecules with net electrical charge) in a small space using magnetic and / or electric fields. Captured ions can form the basis of quantum bits or qubits, the basic unit of quantum information.

Where classical computers perform logical operations based on one of two positions – 1 or 0, on or off, up or down – quantum computers can hold qubits in “superposition”, a quantum mechanical principle where they are in position simultaneously. In this state, quantum computers can “cycle through a large number of potential outages simultaneously,” according to an explanation from the MIT Technology Review.

There is also the concept of entanglement, where pairs of qubits exist in a single quantum state. “Quantum computers utilize qubits wrapped in a kind of quantum daisy chain to process their magic. The ability of machines to speed up calculations using specially designed quantum algorithms is the reason why their potential is so talked about,” according to the magazine.

Quantum computer expert, Prof. Roee Ozeri from the Weizmann Institute of Science. (Credit: Yael Ilan)

The field is relatively new and hugely complex, but experts say quantum computers could benefit industries such as cybersecurity, materials and pharmaceuticals, banking and finance or advanced manufacturing, which are likely to drive massive development in broad areas such as economics, security, engineering or science. .

Tech giants like Google, Microsoft, IBM and Intel are all racing to make quantum computers more accessible and build additional systems, while countries like China, USA, Germany, India and Japan are investing millions in developing their own quantum capabilities.

According to the latest market forecasts, the global quantum computer market size is estimated to be $ 487.4 million by 2021 and is expected to reach $ 3.7 billion by 2030.

The Weizmann computer is a five-qubit machine, roughly the level that IBM’s version reached when the company began offering quantum computers as a cloud service last year.

Ozeri said the team will now use the quantum computer to run advanced algorithms while working on a larger machine that will tackle larger data loads. He estimated that the largest quantum computer, dubbed the WeizQC, would at best take another year.

The name WeizQC is a tribute to WEIZAC, the name of one of the world’s first computers built in Israel by the Weizmann Institute in the 1950s, “when Israel had swamps and camels,” Ozeri said as part of a university statement.

An ion trap inside a vacuum chamber was placed in a large metal container, which shields the ions from magnetic noise. These elements are part of the quantum computer built by researchers at the Weizmann Institute, March 22, 2022. (Freddy Pizanti)

“Today, Israel is a technological empire; there is no reason why we should not be frontrunners in the quantum computer race, ”he said.

WeizQC is expected to work with 64 qubits and “demonstrate the quantum advantage that has so far been achieved only by computers built in two laboratories: at Google and at the University of Science and Technology of China,” the university noted.

Quantum computers are expected to tackle “various problems [de données] it can not be solved today; it is a new computer paradigm that makes it possible to deal with – today – unsolvable problems, ”said Ozeri. As an example, he cited “things like traffic data, new molecules and new substances, [ou encore] cryptography ”.

Photo illustrating IBM’s Quantum System One quantum system, the world’s first integrated quantum computer system. (Credit: IBM)

But Ozeri also acknowledged that the practical use of quantum computers remains “an open question.”

“We are still discovering its true potential,” he said.

Quantum progress

Israel is home to about 20 startups and companies focusing on quantum technologies, including Quantum Machines, which raised $ 50 million last September. The company was founded in 2018 and continued to develop a standard universal language for quantum computers as well as a single platform to help them function.

Last month, the Israel Innovation Authority and the Ministry of Defense said they would allocate nearly 200 million shekels to develop a state quantum computer and lay the groundwork for Israel’s computing capacity on the ground.

The budget will, according to the information, fund two parallel tracks.

The Israel Innovation Authority will focus on developing the infrastructure for quantum computing capacity, which it said could include the use of foreign technology.

The Ministry of Defense’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR & D) will meanwhile establish a national center with quantum capabilities that will work with academic, industry and government partners to develop a quantum processor, then a complete quantum computer.

The initiative is part of Israel’s national quantum science and technology program, launched in 2018 with a budget of 200 million shekels, later raised to 1.25 billion shekels.

The program was launched to facilitate relevant quantum research, develop human capital in the field, encourage industrial projects and invite international research and development cooperation.

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