​University of Sydney receives quantum computing grant from US intelligence

The University of Sydney has been awarded a share in a multimillion dollar grant from a United States government agency to pursue quantum computing research.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The University of Sydney has been awarded a slice of a multimillion dollar research grant from the United States Office of the Director of National Intelligence to advance its research in quantum computing.

The undisclosed funding chunk will be injected into the Quantum Control Laboratory, which is led out of the university's month-old AU$150 million Sydney Nanoscience Hub.

Additionally, an international consortium which includes the University of Sydney has also been selected by the US government-led LogiQ program to help deliver a logical quantum-bit (qubit) based on trapped ions.

The LogiQ program is an initiative run by US government agency the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, which is seeking creative technical solutions to the challenge of encoding imperfect physical qubits into a logical qubit, with a quibit forming the foundations for quantum computing.

According to Sydney University's associate professor Michael Biercuk, a logical qubit is considered a holy grail in quantum information.

"Ions represent a fantastic platform helping us to learn how we can exploit the most exotic phenomena in quantum physics as resources powering a new generation of technologies," Biercuk said.

"There remain enormous challenges bringing any quantum computing technology to reality, but trapped ions have demonstrated the critical building blocks essential for this effort, decades ahead of other proposed technologies."

According to the university, quantum computing promises dramatic advantages over conventional computation; however, it said progress has been stymied by the fragility of systems obeying the rules of quantum physics. The LogiQ program aims to overcome these challenges by effectively stabilising the quantum hardware, the university said.

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) officially opened its new Centre for Quantum Computation and Communications Technology (CQC2T) last month, where a team of researchers are racing to build the world's first quantum computer in silicon.

Well on their way to achieving their goal, a team of UNSW's engineers already unlocked the key to enabling quantum computer coding in silicon, announcing in November that the team had the capability to write and manipulate a quantum version of computer code using two quantum bits in a silicon microchip.

According to UNSW, in achieving this breakthrough the team has removed lingering doubts that such operations can be made reliably enough to allow powerful quantum computers to become a reality.

The breakthrough followed on from an announcement made in October when another team of engineers from the university built a quantum logic gate in silicon, which made calculations between two qubits of information possible.

At the time, Andrew Dzurak, Scientia professor at the university, said it was a landmark result not only for Australia but for the world, as until now it had not been possible to make two quantum bits "talk" to each other and create a logic gate using silicon.

Following UNSW's advancements, the federal government allocated AU$26 million of its AU$500 million science funding to support the university's work in quantum computing.

The science funding forms part of Australia's AU$1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda that was unveiled in December.

Within 48 hours of the cash injection from Turnbull, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia pledged AU$10 million over five years to support the university's researchers. Telstra then matched CommBank's efforts, also pledging AU$10 million over five years to boost UNSW's capacity to develop the world's first silicon-based quantum computer.

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