Atom Computing Demonstrates Key Milestone on Path to Fault Tolerance

Rob Hays, CEO

Today, researchers at Atom Computing released a pre-print publication on arXiv , demonstrating the ability to perform mid-circuit measurement on arbitrary qubits without disrupting others in an atomic array. The team applied mid-circuit measurement to detect the loss of qubits from the array (a well-known anticipated error), and successfully replaced the lost qubits from a nearby reservoir.

Path to Fault Tolerance

At Atom Computing, we believe the true potential of quantum computing will be achieved when devices are capable of fault-tolerant computation.  Our company’s focus is on leading that race to unlock the enormous potential of quantum computing applications for industrial and scientific uses. 

Dr. John Preskill, famed theoretical physics professor at California Institute of Technology, who coined the phrase Noisy Intermediate Scale Quantum (NISQ) to describe the current stage of quantum computing, said it best in 2018: “We must not lose sight of the essential longer-term goal: hastening the onset of the fault tolerant era.”

It will likely require hundreds of thousands or millions of physical qubits to achieve fault tolerant systems that can operate continuously and deliver accurate results, overcoming any errors that may occur during computation just as classical computing systems do.  Mid-circuit measurement is one of several key building blocks required to achieve fault tolerant systems:

Mid-circuit measurement has been demonstrated on superconducting and trapped-ion quantum technologies.  Atom Computing, however, is the first company to do so on a commercial atomic array system.  Recent achievements in the neutral atom research community have shown that atomic arrays are emerging from their “dark horse” status to a preferred architecture with intriguing potential.

Importance of Mid-Circuit Measurement

In quantum computing, circuits act as instructions that tell a quantum computer how to perform a calculation.  Circuits define how the programmer intends for the qubits to interact, which gates they need to complete, and in what order they need to be performed.

Mid-circuit measurement involves probing the quantum state of certain qubits, known as ancillas, without disrupting nearby data qubits that perform calculations.  The ability to measure or read out specific qubits during computation without disrupting the rest is essential for quantum developers.  It enables them to glimpse inside a calculation and use conditional branching to determine which action to take based on results of the measurement, similar to IF/THEN statements used in classical computing. With this capability errors can be detected, identified, and corrected in real time. 

Dr. Ben Bloom, Atom Computing Founder and Chief Technology Officer, called this demonstration an important step for the company’s technology, which uses lasers to hold neutral atom qubits in a two-dimensional array to perform computations.

“This is further proof that atomic array quantum computers are rapidly gaining ground in the race to build large-scale, fault-tolerant quantum computers,” Bloom said. “Mid-circuit measurement enables us to understand what is happening during a computation and make decisions based on the information we are seeing,”

Doing this is tricky. Qubits, whether they are in an atomic array, ion trap, or on a chip, are situated microscopically close. Qubits are finicky, fragile, and sensitive.  A stray photon from a laser or a stray electric field can cause the wrong qubit to decohere and lose its quantum state. 

The Atom Computing team exhibited a technique to “hide” data qubits and shield them from the laser used to measure ancillas without losing any of the quantum information stored in the data qubits. They also showed a competitive SPAM fidelity, a metric that states how well a qubit can be read out. This work demonstrates an important pathway to continuous circuit processing.

What’s Next

Atom Computing is building quantum computers from arrays of neutral atoms because of the potential to significantly scale qubit numbers with each generation.  We previously demonstrated record coherence times on our 100-qubit prototype system and are now working on larger scale production systems to offer as a commercial cloud service.  Our demonstration of mid-circuit measurement, error detection, and correction was performed on these next-generation systems.

Our journey toward fault tolerance continues. We are working to achieve all the necessary “ingredients” listed above on our current systems and on future machines with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.  DARPA selected Atom Computing to explore how atomic arrays of neutral atoms can accelerate the path to fault-tolerant quantum computing.

Atom Computing Welcomes New Scientific Advisors

Dr. Jonathan King, Chief Scientist and Co-Founder

I am pleased to welcome two renowned researchers in the field of quantum information science to Atom Computing as independent scientific advisors. 

Dr. Bert de Jong, Senior Scientist and Deputy Director of the Quantum Systems Accelerator at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Dr. Eliot Kapit, Associate Professor of Physics and Director of Quantum Engineering at Colorado School of Mines, join our long-time advisor Dr. Jun Ye, Professor of Physics at University of Colorado-Boulder and Fellow at JILA and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology.  Together, these scientists and academic leaders will help us advance the state of the art in quantum computing by providing deep technical expertise and guidance to our team. 

Since its inception in 2018, Atom Computing has been building quantum computers from atomic arrays of optically trapped neutral atoms with the goal of delivering large-scale fault-tolerant quantum computing for a range of use cases and applications.  Building high-quality quantum computers is hard work that requires tight collaboration across our team of theoretical and experimental physicists and engineers of multiple disciplines. 

We also frequently consult with researchers from other organizations to solve difficult technical challenges.   In addition to our scientific advisors, we also have active collaborations with other experts from Sandia National Laboratories, DARPA, University of Washington, University of Colorado-Boulder, and others to support R&D of technologies required for our future roadmap.

We are at the point where we are focusing not only on developing our hardware, but also what users can do with it to solve commercial problems at scale.  Bert and Eliot are experts in quantum computing use cases and algorithms.  Their expertise will help our quantum applications team and customers learn how to get the most value out of our hardware platforms.

Bert leads Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Computational Sciences department and its Applied Computing for Scientific Discovery Group. His group’s research encompasses exascale computing, quantum computing and AI for scientific discovery.  (View his bio.

When asked about the role, Bert stated, "Atom Computing's path to universal quantum computing with atom arrays is exciting, and I am honored to be a scientific advisor providing critical input and guidance into their software and algorithm strategies.”

Eliot’s research at Colorado School of Mines focuses on quantum information science, particularly routes to achieve practical and scalable quantum advantage in noisy, near-term hardware.  (View his bio). 

Here is what Eliot said about his new role: I'm excited to have joined the scientific advisory board at Atom Computing. Neutral atom quantum computing has progressed shockingly quickly in just the past few years - and I say this as someone who's been working on superconducting qubits for the past decade, which certainly haven't been standing still.  I think Atom, in particular, has both a compelling roadmap toward large scale quantum computers, and a very capable team to make it happen.”

I am looking forward to future collaborations with Bert, Eliot, and Jun to drive large-scale quantum computing with applications that change the world.

How neutral atoms could help power next-gen quantum computers

Two (electrons) is better than one

Kortny Rolston-Duce, Director of Marketing Communications

February 7th is National Periodic Table Day, a time to celebrate this ubiquitous chart.  

While versions of element tables sorted by various properties or masses have existed throughout the centuries, the modern Periodic Table of the Elements  emerged in the 1860s. It is arranged by increasing atomic number, which represents the number of protons in the nucleus of each atom.  

Here at Atom Computing, we are partial to alkaline earth metals, members of group two on the periodic table.  We use atoms of alkaline earth metals as qubits in our atomic array quantum computing hardware technology.

What are alkaline earth metals? What makes them well suited for our atomic array quantum computing technology? Dr. Mickey McDonald, Principal Quantum Engineer and Technical Lead, explains: 

What are alkaline earth metals?

Alkaline earth metals are all the atoms that live in the second column of the periodic table. The column number corresponds to the number of electrons that are contained in the atom’s outermost shell. Alkaline earth metals have two. There are also a few atoms in the periodic table which don’t live in the second column but still share a very similar electronic structure—the so-called “alkaline earth-like metals.”

Why does Atom Computing use alkaline earth metal atoms as qubits? 

There are two primary reasons.  The first reason is that alkaline earth metal atoms captured in optical tweezers will oscillate at very high frequencies with high stability.  For decades, researchers at places like the National Institute of Standards and Technologies (NIST) have pioneered the use of these long-lived “metastable” states to create extremely fast clocks that harness quantum effects to measure time to incredible precision.  We leverage the techniques used for timekeeping and apply them to our quantum computers.

The second reason is the structure of an alkaline earth atom guarantees that certain pairs of energy levels called “nuclear spin states” will be insensitive to external perturbations. In atoms with only a single outer-shell electron, that electron’s “spin” can couple strongly to external magnetic fields and the various angular momenta of the rest of the atom’s structure.  That coupling leads to drifts that can interfere with the qubit’s coherence. The spins of the two electrons present in alkaline earth metals “cancel out” in a way that makes certain energy levels much less sensitive to ambient fields.

What are the benefits of nuclear spin qubits?

Structure-wise, the electron outer-shell electron in alkaline earths is the big difference and what allows us to create these very environmentally insensitive nuclear spin state qubits.  Once we encode quantum information in the nuclear spin states, the information remains coherent for tens of seconds because the nuclear spin states are so well-protected from the environment. 

Another benefit is a little more esoteric, but very exciting to me as an engineer and a physicist. We use a technique called “laser cooling” to prepare samples of atoms at temperatures only a few millionths of a degree above absolute zero, which involves shining carefully tuned lasers at atoms and extracting a bit of energy from them one photon at a time. Alkaline earth atoms have a structure complex enough to allow several different colors of laser to be used for this cooling. We combine those different colors to rapidly produce samples of atoms at microkelvin temperatures, whereas other species of atoms require cooling schemes to be more complicated and take longer to reach such low temperatures.

What else makes alkaline earth metal atoms attractive for quantum computing?

We can use the atomic level structure kind of like a Swiss army knife.  Certain states are good for cooling, others are good for storing quantum information, others are good for driving entangling operations.  These unique characteristics make neutral atom qubits and Atom Computing possible!

DARPA Gets Serious About Quantum: Five-Year Funding To Build Fault-Tolerant Quantum Computers Goes To Atom Computing, Microsoft And PsiQuantum

Paul Smith-Goodson


Moor Insights and Strategy

Contributor Group

DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has announced that it has selected the companies that will receive funding under its Underexplored Systems for Utility-Scale Quantum Computing (US2QC) program. The companies selected for US2QC are:

Atom Computing — Atom is based in Berkeley, California and has an advanced research facility in Boulder, Colorado. In October 2021, Atom unveiled a gate-based 100-qubit quantum computer called Phoenix, which uses an optical array platform based on strontium neutral atom spin qubits. These qubits have an exceptionally long coherence time of about 40 seconds. A second generation machine with more qubits, higher fidelity and advanced features is expected to be announced soon.

Microsoft — Microsoft's quantum platform, which so far has no working prototype, is based on highly theoretical topological qubits and Majorana fermions. After early problems with misinterpretation of results, the company has restarted its topological research program. Microsoft recently announced progress and detected a topological gap, an important indicator that the research is on track.

PsiQuantum — Based in Palo Alto, California, the company is developing a single photon-based quantum computer. Rather than developing intermediate qubit-sized processors, for its first release PsiQuantum is planning on a million-qubit processor. It is using Global Foundries for fabrication of its CMOS silicon processor.

Purposes of the US2QC program

DARPA is sponsoring the US2QC program to explore new ways to scale qubit count for larger systems, create additional layers of entanglement connectivity for faster performance and develop a broader set of quantum error correction algorithms for fault tolerance. Specifically, DARPA wants to determine if relatively new quantum technologies such as neutral atom, topological and photonics can be leveraged to develop a fault-tolerant quantum computer within ten years. Although the amount of funding wasn’t specified, I expect it will be enough to significantly move the needle for the corporate teams involved, given the program’s five-year span and DARPA’s $4.1 billion 2023 budget.

It is important for the United States to maintain its global lead in quantum computing and be the first to build a fault-tolerant quantum machine. In the DARPA press release, Joe Altepeter, US2QC program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office, helped explain why. He said: “Experts disagree on whether a utility-scale quantum computer based on conventional designs is still decades away or could be achieved much sooner. The goal of US2QC is to reduce the danger of strategic surprise from underexplored quantum computing systems. We put out a call last year saying that if anyone thought they had a truly revolutionary approach to building a useful quantum computer in the near future—less than 10 years—we wanted to hear from them. We offered to collaborate by funding additional experts to join their team and provide rigorous government verification and validation of their proposed solutions to determine its viability. The ultimate outcome of the program is a win-win—for U.S. commercial leadership in this strategically important technology area and for national security to avoid being surprised.”

Rob Hays, CEO and President of Atom Computing, explained the advantages for Atom in the DARPA program. “It's almost like creating a parallel prototyping roadmap that accelerates the future relative to what we could do on our own without the DARPA partnership,” he said. “The partnership comes in the form of dollars to offset our internal costs, and it also provides access to experts from the Defense Department, academia, and national labs to help direct us and provide feedback on our results. It's very valuable and we're very honored to be selected to help advance the state of the art.”

Why DARPA is involved with quantum computing

DARPA was created in 1958 by President Dwight Eisenhower as part of the United States Department of Defense. It was formed with the goal of preventing technological surprises from adversaries, such as when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world's first satellite, allowing it to gain a lead over the United States in space technology. DARPA’s mission is to invest in high-risk, high-reward research projects that have potential to revolutionize the military and civilian industries. DARPA's funding portfolio contains a wide range of research projects, from basic scientific studies to the development of advanced technologies like the Internet, GPS and autonomous vehicles. Besides quantum computing, DARPA continues to invest in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and bio-engineering.

Roadmap for the US2QC program

Moving from the architecture of today’s prototype quantum computers to a fault-tolerant architecture requires development of technologies and software that don’t yet exist. The DARPA program represents a five-year commitment of funds and resources by both DARPA and the companies participating in the US2QC program to address this challenge. The program was designed with a clear understanding that it is a long-term effort.

DARPA has also incorporated a flexible acquisition strategy to fund efforts that are mutually beneficial for both the U.S. Government and for companies that may already be expending significant resources to achieve rapid progress in quantum computing systems.

Example program structure for a US2QC effort. [+] DARPA.MIL

Phase 0: Each company must present a comprehensive plan for building a fault-tolerant quantum computer. The plan must include the components and subsystems, expected performance and strategies for mitigating technical risks. This plan for this phase should provide enough information to create a research and development roadmap for the prototype.

Phase 1: Using the information from Phase 0, the companies must design and construct a fault-tolerant prototype that meets the specifications outlined in the plan.

Phase 2: Each company will work with the government team to transition from today’s noisy intermediate-stage quantum (NISQ) designs to fault-tolerant designs and to ensure that the new components and subsystems meet the fault-tolerance specifications established in Phase 1. The final design for the prototype must incorporate the measured performance of these components and subsystems. The final machine will have all the elements needed to build a fault-tolerant system—likely not at full size initially, but capable of scaling up over time.

Wrapping up

The need for the United States and its allies to achieve quantum fault-tolerance before their adversaries is widely acknowledged by experts. Three years ago, I wrote an article titled “Quantum USA Vs. Quantum China: The World's Most Important Technology Race” highlighting the challenges and crucial matters involved. Although the challenges have changed and the funding has increased, those crucial matters remain unchanged. Quantum computing players IBM and Rigetti (superconducting technology) and IonQ and Quantinuum (trapped-ion technology) were not chosen for the DARPA program because they have already made significant investments in their technologies and have viable plans for achieving fault-tolerant machines with high-qubit numbers in the long term.

DARPA’s long-term funding and resource commitment bring new focus to the three additional technologies of nuclear spin qubits in neutral atoms (Atom Computing), photonic quantum computing (PsiQuantum) and topological quantum (Microsoft). Funding alone can't overcome the difficult physics and engineering challenges of fault-tolerance, but resource collaboration between the government and private companies could reduce the time needed to develop workable solutions. While it's possible that much of the research under this program may not be disclosed, the existence of the program is important to U.S. quantum computing. I anticipate that the program will accelerate the timeline for fault-tolerance, resulting in major progress being achieved in five years instead of the previous prediction of 10.

Analyst notes:

1. Of the three companies selected by DARPA, Atom Computing is the only one with a working programable quantum prototype. Its first generation machine consists of 100 nuclear spin qubits in an array of optically-trapped neutral atoms. Its second generation machine is being built at its Boulder, Colorado lab. My estimate is that its next machine will have 300-plus qubits of higher fidelity than its first generation machine. Atom has also published a number of research papers geared toward improving its future-generation machines. Scaling potential and coherence is excellent. Considering these factors, I believe Atom Computing has a two- to three-year lead on the other companies going into the five-year US2QC program.

2. PsiQuantum has made amazing progress with fabrication of its chips. That said, I would be more encouraged about the architecture if PsiQuantum had a working prototype. However, PsiQuantum has made it clear that it is not interested in baby steps; it is planning one giant leap to a million qubits. One component still needed to complete its architecture is an ultra-fast optical switch. Because none are available that fit its needs, the last time I talked to PsiQuantum they were building their own switch. Scaling is also a big plus for this architecture. The DARPA program could provide the resources for the giant leap that the company has been working on.

3. Microsoft’s quantum computing research relies on one of the most beautiful quantum theories—but unfortunately, it’s based on theoretical Majorana quasiparticles that no one has ever actually detected. That said, Microsoft researchers believe they have recently detected one of the key signatures of these quasiparticles. If it is possible to create a quantum computer with Majorana quasiparticles, my estimate is that it could take another 15 to 20 years. Collaboration with DARPA might shorten the timeframe by a few years.

4. If all three companies complete DARPA’s five year US2QC program, there will be no losers. Each company will have accelerated its own program and increased the potential and usefulness of its architecture while advancing the state of the art in quantum computing as a whole. Also, considering the funding and the expansive resources being dedicated to the program by DARPA, I believe there is a good chance that at least one of the companies will indeed produce a fault-tolerant quantum computer.

Atom Computing Selected by DARPA to Accelerate Scalable Quantum Computing with Atomic Arrays of Neutral Atoms

January 31, 2023 — Berkeley, CA – Atom Computing has been selected by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to explore how atomic arrays of neutral atoms could accelerate the path to fault-tolerant quantum computing. 

The company received a project award and funding to develop a next-generation system as part of DARPA’s Underexplored Systems for Utility-Scale Quantum Computing (US2QC) program.  According to DARPA, the primary goal of the US2QC program is to determine if an underexplored approach to quantum computing is capable of achieving utility-scale operation much sooner than conventional predictions.

For this project, Atom Computing will focus on the scalability of atomic array-based quantum computing and the capability of the company to produce systems based on the technology.  Atom Computing has shown early demonstrations of its speed and the scalability of its technology by being the fastest company to develop a 100-qubit prototype and demonstrating record coherence times.

The DARPA-sponsored project will explore new ways to scale qubit count for larger systems, additional layers of entanglement connectivity for faster performance, and a broader set of quantum error correction algorithms for fault tolerance.

“In order to realize the scaling advantages of our quantum computing technology, there are a number of engineering challenges that need to be overcome.  With DARPA’s support, we will be able to accelerate our development timeframe”, said Rob Hays, CEO of Atom Computing.  “We are honored to be selected for such an important program to advance Atom Computing and the United States toward utility-scale quantum computing.”

To learn more about Atom Computing visit:


About Atom Computing

Atom Computing is building scalable quantum computers with atomic arrays of optically trapped neutral atoms. Learn more at, and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Atom Computing Honors Lesser-Known Researchers and their Contributions to Quantum Computing    

Kortny Rolston-Duce, Director of Marketing Communications

Walk through any office building and the conference rooms likely are numbered or named according to a theme such as geographic landmarks, fictional characters, or notable figures in a field.

We initially planned to take a similar approach at our newly opened research and development facility in Boulder, Colorado by recognizing well-known physicists whose research laid the groundwork for the rapidly evolving field of quantum computing.  People such as Niels Bohr, whose work on the structure of atoms earned him the 1922 Nobel Prize for Physics, or potentially Richard Feynman, one of the first to put forth the idea of quantum computers.

Then Rob Hays, our CEO, challenged us to go beyond the usual names and consider lesser-known and more diverse researchers.  We gladly accepted the challenge and naively believed such information was a few Google searches away.  It wasn’t.  Finding names and information from verified sources was a struggle – until we discovered the Center for the History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics.

We contacted the center and to our delight, Joanna Behrman, an assistant public historian, researched a list of scientists who made significant contributions to quantum physics in the early 20th century.  Each of our conference rooms now proudly display a sign outside the door commemorating these heroes of physics and computation with a brief description of their scientific breakthroughs:

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The room names have sparked conversations amongst Atom Computing staff and with customers and other visitors to our Boulder facility.  A few of our physicists didn’t know some of these researchers despite having studied and worked in the field for years.      

Sadly, many of these pioneering scientists struggled to establish careers in science once they earned their doctorates because of the limited opportunities available.

“Most of the major research institutions or universities at that time did not hire female or African- American professors,” Behrman said. “Once they graduated, it was hard for them to find positions in which they could continue their research.  Most ended up teaching at historically black or female universities or colleges and even there, some faced challenges.”

Unfortunately, that is not unusual.

“They faced overwhelming odds during the time at which they were alive to make these contributions. People like Emmy Noether made amazing contributions anyway. Her ideas about universal symmetries and conservation principles are still fundamental to physics today,” Behrman said. “If you don’t get much credit during your lifetime, it’s unlikely that you will get it after you die and people will continue to say ‘Well, I haven’t heard of her so therefore she didn’t make very many contributions.’”    

Behrman, her colleagues at the American Institute of Physics, and other organizations are trying to change that.  A team at the Niels Bohr Library and Archives produces Initial Conditions, a podcast that focuses on understudied stories in the history of physics, while Behrman and others develop lesson plans for teachers.

“In recent decades, many of these people’s names have been wonderfully resurrected from the depths of history. People are writing books and having conferences,” she said. “There are definitely movements within the physics and the history of science communities to make sure that contributions from under-recognized physicists get their due.”

At Atom Computing, we are happy to play a part in this effort and support diversity, equity, and inclusion.   We are now in the process of renaming the conference rooms at our headquarters in Berkeley, California along a similar theme.  There are many more unsung physics heroes who should be celebrated.

Stay tuned.

Tech Predictions: Wrapping Up 2022 and Looking Ahead at 2023

Rob Hays, CEO

At the beginning of last year, I published my 2022 Quantum Computing Tech Predictions.  I expected big advancements in technology development and the breadth of involvement and thought it would be interesting to look back and see how good my crystal ball was.  Here were my top six quantum computing predictions for 2022 and my comments on how it played out.

Newer quantum computing modalities would achieve eye-opening breakthroughs.

I predicted we would see an acceleration of technical demonstrations and product readiness in neutral atom technology, which in turn would build further interest in the modality and elevate awareness to be on par with the earlier technical approaches.

Neutral atom quantum computing technologies gained a lot of traction in 2022.  Various outlets published articles about the promise of neutral atoms in 2022, some of which referred to this approach as a “dark horse” in the quantum computing race or that it recently “quickened pulses in the quantum community.”  I like these descriptions because neutral atoms are a younger technology than superconducting or trapped ion systems yet are progressing rapidly. 

In May, we published a paper in Nature Communications demonstrating record coherence times of 40 seconds.  In September, researchers from various institutions won the Breakthrough Foundation’s New Horizons Prize in Physics for their work advancing optical tweezers, which are a fundamental component for neutral atom systems being developed by Atom Computing.  In November, QuEra became the first neutral atom quantum computer company to make their analog quantum computers available on the cloud via Amazon Braket.

Momentum is building in neutral atom-based quantum computing now that the technology stack has been proven to work by multiple academic and industry organizations.  I believe 2023 will be a banner year for demonstrating the scalability of the technology, which is one of the value-props that is attracting so much attention.

Increased attention on NISQ use-cases at various scales

While hardware providers are playing the long game of scaling the number of qubits to reach fault-tolerance, I predicted we would see application developers find novel ways of using Noisy Intermediate-Scale Quantum (NISQ) machines for a modest set of use-cases in financial services, aerospace, logistics, and perhaps pharma or chemistry. While I expected developers to figure out how to gain value out of NISQ systems with thousands of qubits, I didn’t think the hardware would quite get there in 2022.

Application developers did indeed deliver.  Quantum South partnered with D-Wave to study airplane cargo loading. Japan-based Qunasys proposed a hybrid quantum-classical algorithm for chemistry modeling.  Entropica Labs in Singapore developed an approach for finding minimum vertex cover (optimization for problems such as water networks, synthetic biology, and portfolio allocation.) They also deployed OpenQAOA, an open-source software development kit to create, refine, and run the Quantum Approximate Optimization Algorithm (QAOA) on NISQ devices and simulators.

Leading Cloud Service Providers would double down on quantum computing.

Citing the major cloud service providers’ unique abilities and motivation to own quantum computing hardware and software technologies, I expected US and Chinese providers to double down on quantum computing to ensure they have viable technology options that can meet their “hyper-scale” needs and capture a significant share of the value chain in the future. I predicted some will invest in multiple, competing technologies in the form of organic R&D, acquisitions, and partnerships or all the above in many cases.

This might be the hardest prediction to accurately judge the results of because much of what the cloud service providers do is shrouded in secrecy for years until they are ready to unveil new products and services.  Furthermore, the underlying infrastructure that supports their AI-driven services is often proprietary and never fully disclosed publicly. 

Nevertheless, we can see the importance of quantum computing to these companies based on their significant investments in quantum computing  people, facilities, and R&D revealed in public announcements.  The top 3 U.S. based cloud service providers each have internal teams investing in various quantum computing research to develop platforms of their own.  At the same time, they have public market places to host third-party quantum computing platforms to give users best of breed choice on what hardware to run their QIS software applications on.  While we didn’t see any major acquisitions of pure-play quantum computing companies by the cloud service providers in 2022, I think it’s only a matter of time until we do.

Investments in Quantum would continue to break records.

Coming off a record year in 2021 of venture capital investment in Quantum Computing surpassing $1.7B, according to McKinsey, some were talking of a quantum bubble and a looming quantum winter.  Given that much more investment is required to deliver large-scale quantum computing and the enormous forecasted market value, I expected the amount of money invested to continue rising with even more companies entering the race.  With one company publicly listed in Q4 2021 and two more companies signaling an intent to IPO, I said I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least five major acquisitions or IPO announcements in 2022.

There’s no doubt that the overall public and private markets took a macro-economic downturn in 2022 with the S&P500 down more than 19 percent in 2022 and the nascent publicly-traded quantum computing stocks down even further.  The two quantum companies that had announced their intent to IPO, indeed did so.  There were rumors of other SPAC deals that were scuttled as the market demand for early-stage IPOs waned.  While I said I wouldn’t have been surprised to see five or more deals, I’m not surprised that we didn’t.  It’s becoming clear that, in the current environment, public markets are not as accepting of pre-profit companies without predictable revenue growth.

Despite the public market turmoil, venture capital investments continued in quantum computing start-ups in 2022, including a $60M Series B by Atom Computing, which we are using to build our next-generation commercial quantum computing systems.  Governments around the world also continued to increase their investments in QIS research programs to gain economic and national security advantages, as described in this World Economic Forum report about global investments in quantum computing.  What’s more, these government investments are increasingly being targeted at technology diversification now that newer quantum technologies have advanced to promising stages.  I expect we will see several public announcements of more investments in these technologies around the world throughout the year.

Diversity and inclusion would be a bigger focus in Quantum Information Science

Like the broader tech industry, the QIS workforce does not represent the diverse population of our society.  I predicted we would see more cooperation in attracting talent to the ecosystem and career development support for women and minorities. As the technology and businesses mature, a broader set of job roles become available expanding beyond the physics labs of our universities. With additional job roles, an expanded talent pool, and the exciting opportunity in quantum computing, I believed we could move the needle in diversity and inclusion.

We did see a lot of focus on diversity and inclusion programs across the industry and some extraordinary efforts.  I applaud the energy and know that we can do more as an industry to help various affinity groups collaborate to advance a common agenda.

We commissioned a private study of gender diversity among the quantum computing hardware companies from publicly-available data gathered from LinkedIn as an indicator of where we stand as an industry.  According to the data set, women make up less than a quarter of the workforce in 13 quantum computing hardware companies evaluated.  Because increasing diversity has been a business priority for our company, I wasn’t surprised to see Atom Computing among the leaders with the greatest mix of female employees at 26 percent.  I was, however, surprised to see that 26 percent is the best.  That’s not nearly good enough - not by a factor of 2!  We can collectively do much better to attract, retain, and promote diverse talent if we work together among competitors and co-travellers to cooperate on supporting diversity in the QIS industry.

Regional Quantum Centers of Excellence would enable tighter collaboration.

It takes a village to build an integrated system of complex hardware, software, and services that interoperate together to deliver a superior user experience. I predicted that collaborations would emerge among universities, government research labs, and private companies to provide environments of innovation in their regions to gain an advantage over other regions in the quantum computing race.

We are seeing quantum ecosystems emerge and/or strengthen across the country.  Atom, for example, joined the University of Colorado’s Cubit Quantum Initiative, the Chicago Quantum Exchange, and the Pistoia Alliance. We also partnered on National Science Foundation proposals to expand regional workforce development programs and bolster the quantum ecosystem in the intermountain West.

The National Science Foundation and other government agencies have been instrumental in the effort to build regional quantum computing hubs that enable researchers from academia, industry, and national labs and other federal entities to connect and collaborate.

Looking ahead in 2023, I think this trend will continue and we will see many of these organizations, especially those funded by federal agencies, to include and/or expand their focus on neutral atom quantum computing technologies and partnering with companies like Atom Computing.

While my crystal ball wasn’t perfect in predicting 2022, I would say that the trends I discussed are largely in line with the results achieved as Atom Computing and the quantum computing industry made big strides in bringing scalable quantum computing technology to the hands of researchers and users who are looking to achieve unprecedented computational results.  I think that progress will only accelerate as we head into 2023 and beyond.

What are Optical Tweezer Arrays and How are They Used in Quantum Computing? Atom Computing’s Remy Notermans Explains.

In recent months, researchers from different institutions won major physics awards for advancing optical tweezer arrays and their use in quantum information sciences.

These announcements drew broader attention to optical tweezer arrays, even in the physics community.  At Atom Computing, however, they are always top-of-mind – optical tweezers are critical to our atomic array quantum computing technology. 

What are optical tweezer arrays and how and why do we use them in our quantum computers? Dr. Remy Notermans, who helped develop the optical tweezer array for Phoenix, our prototype system, answers these questions and more.

What are optical tweezer arrays?
A single optical tweezer is a beam of light used to capture atoms, molecules, cells, or nanoparticles, hold them in place or move them as needed. 

This is possible because light can attract or repulse a particle depending on the color (wavelength) of the light and the absorption properties (electronic energy level structure) of the particle.  By choosing the right wavelength, a particle will be drawn or attracted to the region with the highest intensity of light, trapped in what is known as a potential well (the energy landscape in which an atom wants to go to the lowest point.)

An optical tweezer is created when a laser beam is focused through a microscope objective lens. As the laser beam gets focused it forms into a "tweezer" capable of holding miniscule objects and manipulating them in its focal point. Think of the tractor beam from Star Trek.

To create an optical tweezer array, the laser beam is manipulated before it is focused through a microscope object lens to create a custom-made array of optical tweezers that can be tailored to specific needs – topology, dimensions, and orientation.

Are optical tweezer arrays a new technology?
Optical tweezers have been used by researchers in the fields of medicine, genetics, and chemistry for decades. In fact, Arthur Ashkin, “the father of optical tweezers,” was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2018. Ashkin’s work dates to 1970 when he first detected optical scattering and the effect of different levels of force on particles the size of microns.  He and some of his colleagues later observed a focused beam of light holding tiny particles in place – or optical tweezers.

More recent scientific work has expanded to actual arrays of optical tweezers, allowing for studying many particles simultaneously, biophysics research, and of course quantum information processing.

How does Atom Computing use optical tweezer arrays? What are the benefits?
Optical tweezers are critical to our atomic array quantum computing technology, which uses neutral atoms as qubits.  We reflect a laser beam off a spatial light modulator to create an array of many optical tweezers that each “trap” an individual qubit.  For example, Phoenix, our 100-qubit prototype quantum computer, has more than 200 optical tweezers created from a single laser. Each tweezer can be individually calibrated and optimized to ensure precise control. 

Optical tweezer arrays enable us to fit many qubits in a very small amount of space, which means that scaling the number of qubits by orders of magnitude does not significantly change the size of our quantum processing unit.  By integrating clever optical designs, we foresee a sustainable path toward atomic arrays that are large enough for fault-tolerant quantum computing.

In fact, optical tweezers inspired the Atom Computing logo.  If you turn our “A” logo upside down, it is a visual representation of an optical tweezer holding an atom in a potential well.

Are optical tweezer arrays used for other purposes?
Yes, optical tweezer arrays have been used extensively by researchers in other scientific fields. They have been used by scientists to trap living cells, viruses, bacteria, molecules, and even DNA strands so they can be studied.

Has the work of the New Horizons Physics Prize winners influenced Atom Computing’s approach? If so, how? 
We understand this is a fundamental part of the academic-industrial ecosystem, which is why Atom Computing is involved with many partnerships and funds academic research efforts that potentially help us propel our technology forward.  Combined with the knowledge and experience of our world-class engineering teams, we take these breakthroughs to the next level in terms of scalability, robustness, and systems integration.

What Developers Need to Know about our Atomic Array Quantum Computing Technology

Justin Ging, Chief Product Officer

If you are a developer working in the quantum computing space, you are familiar with or have run a circuit on a superconducting or trapped ion quantum computer. 

These two technologies were the early pioneers of the quantum hardware landscape and small versions of each have been available commercially for years.  A major challenge with these approaches is how to scale them to thousands or millions of qubits with error correction.

More recently, an alternative quantum computing technology with the potential to scale much quicker and easier has emerged - systems based on atomic arrays of neutral atoms.   These systems have inherent advantages, which have led to multiple teams developing them.  

But just as there is more than one way to cook an egg, there are different approaches to building quantum computers from atomic arrays.

At Atom Computing, we are pioneering an approach to deliver highly scalable gate-based quantum computing systems with large numbers of qubits, long coherence times, and high fidelities. 

Here are some key advantages of our atomic array quantum computing technology:

  1. Long coherence times.  Most quantum hardware companies measure coherence in units of milliseconds.  We measure it in seconds. The Atom team recently set a record for the longest coherence time in a quantum computer with Phoenix, our first-generation 100-qubit system. Phoenix demonstrated qubit coherence times of 21 seconds.  The longer qubits maintain their quantum state, the better.  Developers can run deeper circuits for more complex calculations and there is more time to detect and correct errors during computation.  How do we create such long-lived qubits? Weuse alkaline earth atoms for our qubits. These atoms do not have an electrical charge, thus they are “neutral.”  Each atom is identical, which helps with quality control, and are highly immune to environmental noise.
  2. Flexible, gate-based architecture.  Atom Computing is focused on developing a flexible and agile platform for quantum computing by supporting a universal quantum gate-set that can be programmed using standard industry quantum development platforms.  This gate-based approach allows developers to create a wide range of quantum algorithms for many use cases.  Our qubit connectivity uses Rydberg interactions where the atoms are excited to a highly energized level using laser pulses causing their electrons to orbit the nucleus at a greater distance than their ground state to interact with nearby atoms.
  3. Designed to scale.  Neutral atoms can be tightly packed into a computational array of qubits, making the quantum processor core just fractions of a cubic millimeter.  Lasers hold the atomic qubits in position in this tight array and manipulate their quantum states wirelessly with pulses of light to perform computations. This arrangement of individually trapped atoms, spaced only microns apart, allows for massive scalability, as it is possible to expand the qubit array size without substantially changing the overall footprint of the system.  For example, at a 4-micron pitch between each atom and arranged in a 3D array, a million qubits could fit in less than 1/10th of a cubic millimeter volume.

Developers looking for gate-based quantum computers with large numbers of qubits with long coherence times, should be looking to partner with Atom Computing.  We are working with private beta partners to facilitate their research on our platforms. Have questions about partnering? Contact us.