Testing the Waters: Quantum T&M Equipment Adds Rohde & Schwarz to Its Roster

July 23, 2021 by Kristijan Nelkovski

With quantum computing striving to become mainstream, T&M equipment will play a pivotal role. Ensuring this, Rohde & Schwarz jump into the quantum T&M playing field.

During the past couple of years, the field of quantum computing has caught the eye of many engineers and investors alike with the development of major projects by major corporations such as Google and IBM, promising to bring quantum computing to the commercial level. 


IBM's quantum roadmap.

IBM's quantum roadmap. Image used courtesy of IBM


With so many large companies and research institutes focusing on the future of quantum computing, it has reached a pivotal point in requiring testing and measuring (T&M) equipment. 

Recently, a couple of major T&M companies have been focusing on quantum computing. This article will look at the challenges facing quantum computing and then dive into the budding realm of quantum T&M.


The Challenges Facing Quantum Computing

Many of the projects coming from large companies often utilize the quantum states of particles such as spin and charge, where a single particle can simultaneously experience both of its quantum states, contrary to classical semiconductor binary computing.

This technology, however, does not come without its challenges. While research into quantum computing is booming, companies face quantum physics problems in the race to scale up their production and increase computational power while scaling down their chip's physical size. These problems are mainly connected to the volatile nature of the quantum bits, where even the slightest outside interference can impair the fidelity of a computation. 

As with any technology, research and development require vigorous testing and precise instrumentation to advance quantum computing. 

Since quantum computers are usually run at near absolute zero temperatures inside of signal shielding chambers and require many connections and sensors to input, manipulate, and output data, measuring the stability and the states of the qubits can become quite tricky. 

Currently, a couple of measurement companies, such as Tektronix and Keysight Technologies, and most recently, Rohde & Schwarz, are starting to populate this field of quantum T&M as the development of quantum computers becomes more mainstream.


Rohde & Schwarz Take on Quantum T&M

Recently, Rohde & Schwarz, after the acquisition of Zurich Instruments AG, has strengthened its position in the quantum technology market and its instrumentation field. Based in Munich, this company is currently one of the leaders in supplying electrical engineering test and measurement equipment to an R&D client base, ranging from the industrial electronics field to the automotive and aerospace fields.

Like Rohde & Schwarz, Zurich Instruments AG also produces measurement and testing instruments; however, its technology is heavily centered around scientific researchers. 

The company itself was a spin-off from the Swiss research university ETH Zurich. Since its beginning in 2008, Zurich Instruments offers hardware and software solutions for electrical engineering implementations, with the more recent addition of quantum sensing solutions into its product lineup. 


Examples of quantum calibration and measurement equipment from Rohde and Schwarz.

Examples of quantum calibration and measurement equipment from Rohde & Schwarz. Image used courtesy of Rohde & Schwarz


According to Peter Riedel, President and COO of Rohde & Schwarz, with this acquisition, the company is looking forward to developing technological solutions for the future while also strengthening its position in the scientific realm. This addition would allow Rohde & Schwarz to move further into quantum computing by developing products aimed at multiple industries in the quantum engineering field, helping scale the technology to a viable and commercial level.  

Now that T&M has been progressing into quantum computing, it might be interesting to look at what these specific instruments do.


Behind Quantum T&M Instruments

When it comes to quantum computing, instruments offered by companies such as Rohde & Schwarz are crucial because the qubits in quantum computers are very delicate and need to be correctly calibrated and read.


An example setup for quantum T&M.

An example setup for quantum T&M. Image used courtesy of Tektronix


Reading the quantum bits requires precise measurements and elimination of outside interference, which users can achieve by using amplifiers such as superconducting parametric amplifiers and ultra low noise semiconductor amplifiers. On the other hand, calibrating and eliminating interference is done by using spectrum analyzers that can detect undesired signals. 

Stabilizing the quantum setup is essential and can be done by using measuring devices such as advanced oscilloscopes enabling real-time data of the signal's integrity, which is used to verify the integrity of the readout and control pulses of the signal qubits.

Research and development of new materials for quantum computing chips that offer a cleaner manufacturing process can also be helped by testing instruments that can determine the materials' exact properties, such as their resonance frequencies and quality factors. Engineers can do this testing with a high-performance vector network analyzer that can simultaneously test multiple chips at once and find its use in both the installation and the debugging process of the quantum chips.

Even though T&M equipment isn't often the most flashy or exciting topic, it could affect current and future electrical engineers.


What About the Engineers?

Quantum computing is slowly promising to be a beneficial future technology. With potential applications in industries where simulating a large volume of data could save a lot of time and resources, quantum computing might find its way into our daily lives even if it isn't a direct competitor to classical semiconductor electronics. 

As a new technology, quantum computing has many different approaches. Even though these approaches aim to achieve a similar goal, their differences can mean building whole new infrastructures for each technology to successfully test and run a specific type of quantum chip. 

The rise of equipment such as testing and measuring instruments can make some of this technology more accessible. This access could help ensure a more effortless and faster development process for engineers, enable more companies and institutions to create their quantum computing solutions, and bring us closer to a quantum future. 



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