Photonic quantum computers are computers that use quantum mechanical principles of light particles to perform a large number of calculations simultaneously. Traditional computers perform calculations one at a time. In theory, this could ensure that quantum computers could become many times faster than classical computers for certain tasks.
Since 2021, QuiX from Enschede has supplied quantum processors to several customers in Europe. “We are very proud to be the first Dutch company to bring quantum processors to market,” says Renema. The company unveiled a new model on Thursday. According to Renema, it is the most powerful photonic quantum computer in the world.
“With our new processor, we set a world record in the number of channels on a processor. This is how the computing power of photonic quantum computers is expressed. You can compare it to the clock speed of a regular computer,” says Renema. The processor contains twenty channels, almost double that of the previous model.
Market leader in Europe
The previous model was already a great success. Renema says it has already launched five systems. “It’s a market that’s still evolving. So five is already a lot. It makes us the world market leader.” According to Renema, QuiX processors have since become the standard in the photonic quantum market.
Renema says that customers mainly use the processors for R&D functions. “They are not yet used by companies, but primarily by organizations that want to develop products for companies. Some of them are universities, others are quantum startups that use our technology to develop services.”
Not for the average user
According to Renema, we will not soon all be walking around with a quantum computer in our pocket. “These computers are initially used by large companies to perform complex calculations, such as applications such as chemical calculations and machine learning.” For example, more efficient chemical reactions can be found for production processes.
One of the most famous uses of quantum computers is also to break encryption. With traditional computers this is virtually impossible, but with a quantum computer it could very well be possible. However, Renema makes a comment. “It’s possible in itself, but people are also working on it. There’s such a thing as quantum-resistant encryption.”
Photons vs. electrons
According to Renema, the key to QuiX’s success is the fact that it works with photons. Most quantum computers do not use photons, but work with electrons. “With photons, you can build a very large and powerful quantum computer with relatively few simple resources.”
Renema also says that photons are less affected by interference from the environment. “Quantum systems must remain isolated from the environment. With electrons, you have a faster chance of information leaking away. Then you lose the quantum properties and the whole computer no longer works.”
However, there are also disadvantages to the technology. For example, it is still difficult to scale up photonic quantum systems. According to various studies, it would get very expensive very quickly. Physicist Xian-Min Jin of Shanghai Jiaotong University said in 2019 that this problem is a “crucial bottleneck”.
Not only companies like QuiX are participating in the race to develop quantum computers. Tech giants like Google and countries like China and the US are also trying to get the technology up and running as quickly as possible.
Angela Merkel, for example, said last year that quantum computers will play a “key role” in the economy in the future. She said this after Germany first got its own quantum computer from IBM.