By Hamish Johnston, reporting from Vancouver, Canada
Yesterday I took a cab out to nearby Burnaby to have a chat with Geordie Rose, a physicist who is co-founder of the quantum-computer maker D-Wave systems. That’s Geordie on the right standing next to one of the firm’s famous black boxes.
What’s inside the box? I had a look. The box itself is a shield that protects its contents from electromagnetic fields that would wreak havoc with D-Wave’s quantum bits (qubits) – which are superconducting flux qubits. In simple terms, each qubit is a little magnet that could easily be perturbed by stray fields.
Also in the box is a dilution refrigerator, which cools the chips to near absolute zero. D-Wave uses “dry” fridges that don’t need to be topped up with costly liquid helium. Indeed, Rose says that the firm has played an important role in the development of dry fridges.
The fridge cools an integrated circuit that contains hundreds of flux qubits. They are arranged in a 2D array where each is coupled with its nearest neighbour, creating an Ising model on a chip.
I also stopped by to chat to D-Wave’s Suzanne Gildert (below), who is developing the firm’s Developer Portal, where programmers can learn about how to write code for the systems. The portal is in a beta version at the moment but a full-blown portal will soon be available to all.
Coming away from D-Wave, you can’t help thinking that the company has cracked the challenge of creating a viable and scalable quantum computer. Indeed, you can even buy one, if you want. But Rose admits there are lots of challenges ahead before quantum computing goes mainstream – and he thinks the best way forward is to keep building and keep improving the systems.
You can see more photos from my visit on out Flickr page.