New Cash Funds D-Wave’s Quantum Ambitions


Commercial quantum firm D-Wave gets $30 million more to fund its dreams

D-Wave, the only commercial company in the quantum computing field, has been granted another $30 million (£17.6m) to fund its quest to create a machine that will perform considerably faster than existing computers and solve currently uncrackable problems.

The company has now received $160 million, and sold early machines to NASA and Google, but has faced doubts from the academic community – the home of most quantum research. D-Wave has shrugged off earlier suggestions that its machines were not actually quantum computers, but now has to prove that its hardware operates faster and more cost-effecitvely than conventional systems.

A quantum computer from D-WaveWho’s got my cat?

“This funding is a strong endorsement of D-Wave’s ability to deliver the first viable quantum computer to organisations in need of a new calibre of computing,” D-Wave CEO Vern Brownell, said in a press release. “For quantum computing to achieve its enormous potential in such diverse areas as genetically personalized medicine, mission planning, systems optimization and machine learning, we need to build a software ecosystem through partnerships with world experts.”

In theory quantum computing provides a massive speed-up over conventional systems because the same hardware can process multiple inputs simulatneously, thanks to the quantum paradox made famous by the Schrodinger’s Cat thought experiment, where multiple quantum states co-exist in an isolated system.

As well as software and partnerships, D-Wave will be building systems. The D-Wave 2 system in the firm’s British Columbia base can work with 512 quantum bits (qubits), and the company wants to double that. To that end, it has a fabrication technique which makes 120 qubits at a time in silicon.

The firm believes a commercial approach will push quantum computing faster, as it can produce iterations of its design more frequently than a university department. “While academics get about two designs of quantum computer a year, we can manage six to eight,” D-Wave’s director of partnerships Colin Williams told TechWeek last year. “That is what differentiates us from the academic approach.”

D-Wave’s approach uses the spin of superconducting magnets for its qubits, and they have to be kept isolated at very low temperatures while the machine arrives at its result through a process called “annealing”. The firm has also worked on making superconductors more cost-effective.

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