IonQ and Quantum Machines Keep the Ball Rolling for Quantum Processing Units

September 30, 2021 by Jake Hertz

As the field of quantum computing continues to heat up, two startups: IonQ and Quantum Machines, are hoping to fuel the fire with quantum processor architectures and a boost in funding.

Quantum computing is amongst the hottest fields of research and development in the world right now. With that has come lots of funding, new emerging companies, and innovative technologies. 


Recent and prediction quantum computing growth by region.

Recent and prediction quantum computing growth by region. Image used courtesy of Maximize Market Research


This past month alone, two quantum startups, with a focus on hardware, have made significant news. In this article, let's dive down into what’s happening in the quantum-startup world to get a feel for the state of quantum hardware. However, before jumping straight into the startups, it's important to establish a high-level overview of quantum hardware. 


Quantum Hardware: The Basics 

In quantum computing, two of the most essential pieces of hardware are the quantum processing unit (QPU) and the classical control circuitry. 

The QPU is similar to a classical processing unit in that it is the core of the computer, which performs the actual computation. Manipulating qubits instead of standard bits, the QPU relies on quantum principles to perform a task. 

Subsystems of the QPU include registers and gates (sometimes called QRAM), a quantum control unit for driving the system states and circuitry to interface between the classical host CPU and the QPU. In modern schemes, the QPU requires cryogenic temperatures to operate. 


A simplified quantum computer system diagram.

A simplified quantum computer system diagram. Image used courtesy of Khan and Robles-Kelly


The classical control circuitry, also known as the host processor, is the classical computer that runs the software tools necessary to create applications to be run on the QPU. 

The host processor runs conventional software; however, it requires a unique, high bandwidth connection to the quantum control unit. This connection between quantum and classical computers has started to become a bottleneck in the field, and hence host processors have seen increased interest in recent years. 

Hoping to ease this bottleneck is the first startup in this article: IonQ. 


IonQ Debuts a New Architecture 

Recently, IonQ, a Maryland-based startup, made headlines with the release of its new QPU architecture

IonQ uniquely approaches quantum computing by utilizing what is called "Trapped-ion" quantum computers. Its computers employ ionized ytterbium atoms as qubits, which have the advantage of being uniform and stable over long periods of time. 


IonQ’s EGT chip.

IonQ’s EGT chip. Image used courtesy of IonQ


Their latest announcement was the release of, what they’re calling, the industry’s first reconfigurable multicore quantum architecture (RMQA). The architecture consists of merging and separating 64 ytterbium (Yb) ions to create an RMQA of 4 chains of 16 ions each. Each chain can then be dynamically configured into quantum computing cores, allowing for scaling to large qubits without losing fidelity. 

They are achieved via IonQ's proprietary evaporated glass trap (EGT) chip, which provides enough stability necessary to operate this architecture with minimal recalibration. 

Moving forward, IonQ believes that its EGT platform, along with its new RMQA, could eventually enable triple-digit qubits on a single chip. It will be interesting to see how IonQ continues to develop its technology and where it takes the company and quantum computing in general.

Not only has IonQ been working hard to keep its momentum going, but another company shooting to up its game in the quantum computing field is also Quantum Machines. 


Quantum Machines Raises $50M 

Israeli-based Quantum Machines made headlines earlier this month when it secured $50M in Series B funding. With that kind of funding, let's look at who this company is and what it brings to the table. 

Quantum Machines was founded in 2018, focusing strictly on the classical computing side of quantum computers (i.e., the host processor). The company's crowning achievement to this point has been the development of its Quantum Orchestration Platform: a complete hardware and software solution for the control and orchestration of quantum computers. 


The OPX quantum control hardware.

The OPX quantum control hardware. Image used courtesy of Quantum Machines


Recently, the company released the QUA, which is the first standard universal language for quantum computers. The company likens QUA to Intel's x86 or Nvidia's CUDA, a low-level tool that allows users to maximize their Quantum Machine's hardware. 

The company's singular focus on the classical side of quantum, merged with their innovation and vision, has led to critical acclaim, culminating in its newest round of funding. 

With both Quantum Machines' boost in funding and the innovations from IonQ, quantum computing hardware is looking to get a leg up from these up-and-coming startups. Though there are many aspects of quantum computing that still need a lot of R&D, two of the primary hardware focuses being the QPU and the host processor. Both IonQ and Quantum Machines are approaching these problems, respectively, and aiming to achieve high levels of success.



Interested in other quantum computing hardware achievements? Read on in the articles down below.

Researchers Speed Up Quantum Computing with Advances from Algorithms to Sensors

A Cryogenic IC May Be the Answer to Quantum Computer Scalability

Solving Quantum Challenges with Photonic Quantum Chips