Connects decision-makers and solutions creators to what's next in quantum computing

Agency enlists Microsoft, Atom Computing, and PsiQuantum to study neutral atom, quantum topology and photonic designs

John Potter

February 2, 2023

2 Min Read
The DARPA logo, the agency's name in a flattened, blue globe
DARPA is investigating whether unconventional quantum computing designs might achieve utility scale faster.DARPA

The US military's brain trust, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has initiated a five-year program to investigate novel quantum system designs.

The Underexplored Systems for Utility-Scale Quantum Computing (US2QC) program seeks to keep pace with rival nations by looking at unusual concepts that might achieve utility-scale quantum computing sooner than conventional designs.

DARPA has enlisted the expertise of Microsoft, Atom Computing, and PsiQuantum, who are investigating neutral atom, quantum topology and photonic quantum technologies.

Atom is developing an optically-trapped atomic array as the basis for a scalable quantum computing platform. PsiQuantum is collaborating with GlobalFoundries to implement a lattice of photonic qubits into silicon photonics for error correction in quantum computing.

Microsoft, the largest of the three, is currently developing a quantum system that uses a topological qubit architecture, which the company claims will allow it to shrink a million-qubit system to a size where it could fit in a closet.

DARPA is funding the US2QC program to explore new ways to increase a quantum system's qubit count, increase performance speed via more entanglement layers and create more robust quantum error correction algorithms. 

Related:Defense Taps Quantum for Detection

The agency is interested in learning whether or not it can use recent advances in quantum technologies to create a quantum computer that is reliable and resilient to errors within the next decade.

"Experts disagree on whether a utility-scale quantum computer based on conventional designs is still decades away or could be achieved much sooner," said Joe Altepeter, US2QC program manager. "The goal of US2QC is to reduce the danger of strategic surprise from underexplored quantum computing systems."

Although the US2QC program aims to move from the architecture of today's prototype quantum computers to a fault-tolerant architecture using technologies and software that don't yet exist, DARPA developed the program with the understanding that it would be a long-term endeavor. 

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