Tag Archives: German Aerospace Center (DLR)

Scientists have demonstrated a breakthrough in developing practical quantum computers

As noted in a February 8, 2023 news item on ScienceDaily, there is an international race to make quantum computers ubiquitous,

Researchers from the University of Sussex and Universal Quantum have demonstrated for the first time that quantum bits (qubits) can directly transfer between quantum computer microchips and demonstrated this with record-breaking speed and accuracy. This breakthrough resolves a major challenge in building quantum computers large and powerful enough to tackle complex problems that are of critical importance to society.

Today, quantum computers operate on the 100-qubit scale. Experts anticipate millions of qubits are required to solve important problems that are out of reach of today’s most powerful supercomputers [1, 2]. There is a global quantum race to develop quantum computers that can help in many important societal challenges from drug discovery to making fertilizer production more energy efficient and solving important problems in nearly every industry, ranging from aeronautics to the financial sector.

In the research paper, published today [February 8, 2023] in Nature Communications, the scientists demonstrate how they have used a new and powerful technique, which they dub ‘UQ Connect’, to use electric field links to enable qubits to move from one quantum computing microchip module to another with unprecedented speed and precision. This allows chips to slot together like a jigsaw puzzle to make a more powerful quantum computer.

A February 8, 2023 University of Sussex press release (also on EurekAlert) by Alice Ingall, which originated the news item, offers a little more detail about the work and also some context,

The University of Sussex and Universal Quantum team were successful in transporting the qubits with a 99.999993% success rate and a connection rate of 2424/s, both numbers are world records and orders of magnitude better than previous solutions.

Professor Winfried Hensinger, Professor of Quantum Technologies at the University of Sussex and Chief Scientist and Co-founder at Universal Quantum said: “As quantum computers grow, we will eventually be constrained by the size of the microchip, which limits the number of quantum bits such a chip can accommodate. As such, we knew a modular approach was key to make quantum computers powerful enough to solve step-changing industry problems. In demonstrating that we can connect two quantum computing chips – a bit like a jigsaw puzzle – and, crucially, that it works so well, we unlock the potential to scale-up by connecting hundreds or even thousands of quantum computing microchips.”

While linking the modules at world-record speed, the scientists also verified that the ‘strange’ quantum nature of the qubit remains untouched during transport, for example, that the qubit can be both 0 and 1 at the same time.

Dr Sebastian Weidt, CEO and Co-founder of Universal Quantum, and Senior Lecturer in Quantum Technologies at the University of Sussex said: “Our relentless focus is on providing people with a tool that will enable them to revolutionise their field of work. The Universal Quantum and University of Sussex teams have done something truly incredible here that will help make our vision a reality. These exciting results show the remarkable potential of Universal Quantum’s quantum computers to become powerful enough to unlock the many lifechanging applications of quantum computing.”

Universal Quantum has just been awarded €67 million from the German Aerospace Center (DLR) to build two quantum computers where they will deploy this technology as part of the contract. The University of Sussex spin-out was also recently named as one of the 2022 Institute of Physics award winners in the Business Start-up category.

Weidt added: “The DLR contract was likely one of the largest government quantum computing contracts ever handed out to a single company. This is a huge validation of our technology. Universal Quantum is now working hard to deploy this technology in our upcoming commercial machines.”

Dr Mariam Akhtar led the research during her time as Research Fellow at the University of Sussex and Quantum Advisor at Universal Quantum. She said: “The team has demonstrated fast and coherent ion transfer using quantum matter links. This experiment validates the unique architecture that Universal Quantum has been developing – providing an exciting route towards truly large-scale quantum computing.”

Professor Sasha Roseneil, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex, said: “It’s fantastic to see that the inspired work of the University of Sussex and Universal Quantum physicists has resulted in this phenomenal breakthrough, taking us a significant step closer to a quantum computer that will be of real societal use. These computers are set to have boundless applications – from improving the development of medicines, creating new materials, to maybe even unlocking solutions to the climate crisis. The University of Sussex is investing significantly in quantum computing to support our bold ambition to host the world’s most powerful quantum computers and create change that has the potential to positively impact so many people across the world. And with teams spanning the spectrum of quantum computing and technology research, the University of Sussex has both a breadth and a depth of expertise in this. We are still growing our research and teaching in this area, with plans for new teaching programmes, and new appointments.”

Professor Keith Jones, Interim Provost and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at the University of Sussex, said of the development: “This is a very exciting finding from our University of Sussex physicists and Universal Quantum. It proves the value and dynamism of this University of Sussex spin-out company, whose work is grounded in rigorous and world-leading academic research. Quantum computers will be pivotal in helping to solve some of the most pressing global issues. We’re delighted that Sussex academics are delivering research that offers hope in realising the positive potential of next-generation quantum technology in crucial areas such as sustainability, drug development, and cybersecurity.”  

For anyone curious about Universal Quantum, this information was provided later in the press release,

ABOUT UNIVERSAL QUANTUM

Universal Quantum builds quantum computers that will one day help humanity solve some of its most pressing problems in areas such as drug discovery and climate change as well as shed light on its biggest scientific mysteries. To achieve this, quantum computers with millions of qubits are required, which is often described as one of the biggest technology challenges of our time.

Universal Quantum has developed a unique modular architecture to solve exactly that challenge. Its trapped ion-based electronic quantum computing modules are manufactured using available silicon technology. Individual modules are connected using its record-breaking UQ Connect technology to form an architecture that can scale to millions of qubits.

With 15+ years of quantum computing experience, Universal Quantum is a spin-out from the University of Sussex [emphasis mine], founded by Dr Sebastian Weidt and Professor Winfried Hensinger in 2018 and supported by leading investors. Visit www.universalquantum.com

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

A high-fidelity quantum matter-link between ion-trap microchip modules by M. Akhtar, F. Bonus, F. R. Lebrun-Gallagher, N. I. Johnson, M. Siegele-Brown, S. Hong, S. J. Hile, S. A. Kulmiya, S. Weidt & W. K. Hensinger. Nature Communications volume 14, Article number: 531 (2023) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-35285-3 Published: 08 February 2023

This paper is open access.

Mind-reading prosthetic limbs

In a December 21, 2022 Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU press release (also on EurekAlert) problems with current neuroprostheses are described in the context of a new research project intended to solve them,

Lifting a glass, making a fist, entering a phone number using the index finger: it is amazing the things cutting-edge robotic hands can already do thanks to biomedical technology. However, things that work in the laboratory often encounter stumbling blocks when put to practice in daily life. The problem is the vast diversity of the intentions of each individual person, their surroundings and the things that can be found there, making a one size fits all solution all but impossible. A team at FAU is investigating how intelligent prostheses can be improved and made more reliable. The idea is that interactive artificial intelligence will help the prostheses to recognize human intent better, to register their surroundings and to continue to develop and improve over time. The project is to receive 4.5 million euros in funding from the EU, with FAU receiving 467,000 euros.

“We are literally working at the interface between humans and machines,” explains Prof. Dr. Claudio Castellini, professor of medical robotics at FAU. “The technology behind prosthetics for upper limbs has come on in leaps and bounds over the past decades.” Using surface electromyography, for example, skin electrodes at the remaining stump of the arm can detect the slightest muscle movements. These biosignals can be converted and transferred to the prosthetic limb as electrical impulses. “The wearer controls their artificial hand themselves using the stump. Methods taken from pattern recognition and interactive machine learning also allow people to teach their prosthetic their own individual needs when making a gesture or a movement.”

The advantages of AI over purely cosmetic prosthetics

At present, advanced robotic prosthetics have not yet reached optimal standards in terms of comfort, function and control, which is why many people with missing limbs still often prefer purely cosmetic prosthetics with no additional functions. The new EU Horizon project “AI-Powered Manipulation System for Advanced Robotic Service, Manufacturing and Prosthetics (IntelliMan)” therefore focuses on how these can interact with their environment even more effectively and for a specific purpose.

Researchers at FAU concentrate in particular on how to improve control of both real and virtual prosthetic upper limbs. The focus is on what is known as intent detection. Prof. Castellini and his team are continuing work on recording and analyzing human biosignals, and are designing innovative algorithms for machine learning aimed at detecting the individual movement patterns of individuals. User studies conducted on test persons both with and without physical disabilities are used to validate their results. Furthermore, FAU is also leading the area “Shared autonomy between humans and robots” in the EU project, aimed at checking the safety of the results.

At the interface between humans and machines

Prof. Castellini heads the “Assistive Intelligent Robotics” lab (AIROB) at FAU that focuses on controlling assistive robotics for the upper and lower limbs as well as functional electrostimulation. “We are exploiting the potential offered by intent detection to control assistive and rehabilitative robotics,” explains the researcher. “This covers wearable robots worn on the body such as prosthetics and exoskeletons, but also robot arms and simulations using virtual reality.” The professorship focuses particularly on biosignal processing of various sensor modalities and methods of machine learning for intent detection, in other words research directly at the interface between humans and machines.

In his previous research at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), where he was based until 2021, Castellini investigated the question of how virtual hand prosthetics could help amputees cope with phantom pain. Alongside Castellini, doctoral candidate Fabio Egle, a research associate at the professorship, is also actively involved in the IntelliMan project. The FAU share of the EU project will receive funding of 467,000 euros over a period of three and a half years, while the overall budget amounts to 6 million euros. The IntelliMan project is coordinated by the University of Bologna and the DLR, the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, the University of Genoa, Luigi Vanvitelli University in Campania and the Bavarian Research Alliance (BayFOR) are also involved.

Good luck to the team!