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Joining Forces for Europe’s Quantum Computers

Jülich, 1 July 2020 – Forschungszentrum Jülich is strengthening its quantum research. Frank Wilhelm-Mauch begins his work at Jülich on 1 July. The physicist takes up his new position at Jülich as part of a joint appointment with Saarland University and will conduct research at the interface between solid-state physics and quantum information.

The arrival of Frank Wilhelm-Mauch at Jülich will provide fresh impetus for the development of a European quantum computer. Since October 2018, he has coordinated the OpenSuperQ project as part of a large-scale quantum initiative at European level. The central aim of the OpenSuperQ project is to build a European quantum computer at Forschungszentrum Jülich – the first of its kind at this level and a global leader among comparable systems. The quantum computer should enable computations involving 100 superconducting qubits and, above all, speed up the simulation of processes in the fields of chemistry and materials science as well as machine learning, a field of artificial intelligence.

Prof. Dr. Frank Wilhelm-MauchProf. Dr. Frank Wilhelm-Mauch
Copyright: Universität des Saarlandes / Thorsten Mohr

Prof. Frank Wilhelm-Mauch, you’re coordinating the construction of a European quantum computer as part of the OpenSuperQ project. What are your hopes and aims?

Quantum computers are currently large-scale devices used for research and development – too large to be simulated using traditional computers and too small to be used disruptively, so a real business case. We want to build such a large-scale device here at Jülich. As a publicly funded, exclusively European project, we can provide future users with really in-depth guided access, as should be the case for a large-scale research device. We hope it will form the focal point for a technological ecosystem.

Your aim is to have completed development of a 100 qubit quantum computer by 2021. How far along are you now? What challenges lie ahead?

We remain on schedule, with a slight correction due to the COVID-19 crisis. In the first phase, we enhanced components and began with the system integration process. Our currently most powerful chip has just significantly improved on a world record during an optimization application with our colleagues at ETH Zurich. This chip will be installed at Jülich in autumn in order to integrate the system more strongly there.

The challenges now are related to the size of the processor. To achieve 100 qubits, we need to manufacture chips with very low tolerances and integrate them three dimensionally. This means that the read/write lines need to be placed on a separate chip in order to control the qubits that are not on the edges of the chip. And the computer ultimately needs to be powered up, of course; the necessary firmware is being created at the new PGI-12 subinstitute.

At Forschungszentrum Jülich, you will head the new PGI-12 subinstitute you just mentioned, which is dedicated exclusively to quantum computing analytics. What will you be researching there exactly?

I see myself as an applied theoretical physicist – application is the goal and theoretical analysis the means of getting there. My working group is conducting research into quantum computing with superconducting circuits on many levels, including hardware design, developing protocols for their control and analysis, and hardware-oriented software. Our strength is being able to combine these levels: we design hardware tailored to applications and software that makes optimal use of the hardware, which is still at a very early stage. We, of course, pay particular attention to the modelling of errors such as decoherence. This is the tendency of quantum states to change over time and become classic again, which is one of the biggest challenges in developing quantum computers.

Further information:

Focus: Quantum technologies

Contact:

Prof. Dr. Frank Wilhelm-Mauch
Peter Grünberg Institute – Quantum Computing Analytics (PGI-12)
Tel: +49 2461 61-6106
Email: f.wilhelm-mauch@fz-juelich.de

Press contact:
Tobias Schlößer
Corporate Communications
Tel: +49 2461 61-4771
Email: t.schloesser@fz-juelich.de

Dr. Regine Panknin
Corporate Communications
Tel: +49 2461 61-9054
Email: r.panknin@fz-juelich.de