Oxford Ionics Refines a Trapped-ion Processor for a Bright Quantum Future

January 13, 2023 by Aaron Carman

Hoping to bring scalability to the quantum world, Oxford Ionics has developed electronic control hardware.

In a powerful start to the new year, Oxford Ionics has raised over £30 million ($36.36 million) in series A funding for its unique approach to quantum computing. While still in its early years, quantum computing holds the potential to unlock an extremely powerful computing mechanism for the most advanced calculations.


The founders of Oxford Ionics

The founders of Oxford Ionics, Dr. Tom Harty and Dr. Chris Ballance, both earned PhDs in quantum computing from the University of Oxford. Image used courtesy of Oxford Ionics


Despite the potential of quantum computing, the field lacks the scalability of traditional computing technologies. In an effort to bridge the gap between quantum performance and silicon scalability, Oxford Ionics developed proprietary hardware that eases integration between quantum systems and silicon control hardware, giving its processors a distinct advantage.

This article will detail the technology driving Oxford Ionics and its approach to quantum computing, which prioritizes the quality and scalability of qubits. In addition, we'll also cover the future of trapped ion technology in quantum computing to give designers a better understanding of the current quantum landscape.


Trapped Ions: Going Beyond Binary

Quantum computing relies on the principles of superposition, interference, and entanglement to effectively carry out complex calculations in a fraction of the time traditional computing methods take. While there are numerous technologies for implementing quantum systems, such as superconductors or photonics, new trapped ion technology seems capable of increasing the performance of quantum computers compared to other methods.


Quantum computing offers increased versatility in storing information

Compared to classical computing, quantum computing offers increased versatility in storing information, making it advantageous for high-performance applications. Image used courtesy of Microsoft Azure


Trapped ions use an electric field to suspend a charged particle in 3D space, which can then be manipulated by an external source to perform calculations. This manipulation can take various forms, with lasers typically offering the best performance. Lasers suffice on a small scale, but as the number of qubits in a quantum computing system grows, laser control can quickly become impractical.


Getting the Best of Both Worlds

To design high-performing systems that are easier to scale, Oxford Ionics developed its Electronic Qubit Control (EQC) system. The EQC removes the need for lasers in a quantum processor and allows for integration between quantum and silicon technology, adding a new layer of flexibility to quantum computing.


Trapped ion devices fabricated by Infineon and designed by Oxford Ionics

Trapped ion devices fabricated by Infineon and designed by Oxford Ionics include approximately 700 chips per wafer and allow traditional hardware to fabricate next-generation devices. Image used courtesy of Oxford Ionics


Despite the newfound legroom for quantum computing, Oxford Ionics is not adopting a “bigger is better” mentality. Instead, it is focused on developing high-performance (i.e., low error and high coherence time) qubits to maximize their per-unit performance and accelerate the time to market for quantum processors. Oxford Ionics has even begun collaborating with Infineon AG to create quantum processors using silicon fabrication technology, further verifying the ability of EQC to provide enhanced scalability to quantum processors.


Unlocking Accessible Quantum Computing

With backing for its quantum and EQC technology, Oxford Ionics is ambitious about its future. Within two years, the company hopes to make available fully-integrated devices sporting “hundreds of qubits” and expand these devices into a quantum supercomputing cluster in five years. In addition, the first Oxford Ionics devices are expected to be cloud-accessible shortly, so interested engineers and researchers can evaluate the performance themselves.

Despite the relatively young age of quantum devices, the advances made by Oxford Ionics represent a forward leap in our computing abilities. Much like how analog computers may offer improved performance for artificial intelligence, quantum computing could mark the dawn of a new age of optimized finance, supply chain, or machine learning applications.