Atom Computing, a quantum computing company based in Berkeley, California, appears to be on the fast track for funding.
This week, Atom announced that it had secured a $60 million Series B funding round led by Third Point Ventures. The round also included Prime Movers Lab and experts Innovation Endeavors, Venrock and Prelude Ventures.
Atom was founded in 2018 with $5 million in seed funding by Benjamin Bloom and Jonathan King. For two years, the duo used those funds to hire staff and secretly build a quantum computer with unique technology. What set the Atom computer apart from other quantum machines was that it was the first quantum computer to use nuclear spin qubits created from optically trapped neutral atoms.
In July 2021, Atom Computing received an additional $15 million in Series A funding from investors Venrock, Innovation Endeavors, and Prelude Ventures, plus three grants from the National Science Foundation.
According to a statement on the Atom press release from Rob Hays, president and CEO of Atom Computing, there was no shortage of investment interest. “We’ve seen a tremendous amount of investor interest in what many are beginning to believe is a more promising way to scale quantum computers: neutral atoms,” he said. “Our technological advances and this investment give us the track to continue our focus on delivering the most scalable and reliable quantum computers.”
What is different about your technology?
Most current quantum computers use two types of qubits, superconducting (IBM and Google) or trapped ions (Quantinum or IonQ). Amazon doesn’t have a quantum computer yet, but plans to build one using superconducting hardware. In contrast, Psi Quantum and Xanadu use photons of light that act as qubits.
Atomic computing chose to use a different technology: nuclear-spin qubits made of neutral atoms. Phoenix, the name of Atom’s first-generation gate-based quantum computing platform, uses 100 optically trapped qubits.
These qubits are created from an isotope of strontium, a naturally occurring element that is considered a neutral atom. Going deeper, neutral atoms have equal numbers of protons and electrons. However, isotopes of strontium have a variable number of neutrons. These differences in neutrons produce different energy levels in the atom that allow the creation of spin qubits. Atom Computing uses the isotope Strontium-87 and harnesses its unique energy levels to create spin qubits.
It is important that the qubits remain in a quantum state long enough to complete the operation of the quantum circuits. The time that a qubit retains its quantum state is called the coherence time. Neutral atom qubits have a longer coherence time than most other qubit technologies.
Lasers are used instead of wires for precision control of strontium-87 qubits. Lasers eliminate wiring, which can create radiation and noise that negatively affect coherence.
There are many other technical reasons for using spin qubits from neutral atoms, but they are beyond the scope of this article.
Second generation plans.
With its latest Series B funding of $60 million, Atom Computing plans to build a larger second-generation neutral atom quantum computer. Many additional qubits will give the system greater computational power. Currently, Atom Computing likely has ongoing undisclosed use cases and customer testing. However, we expect new and more significant use cases to be publicly announced once the new quantum system is operational.
Patrick Moorhead, President and Chief Analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, said: “Qubit’s consistency, fidelity and scalability are essential factors in achieving quantum advantage. Atom Computing has already shown that Phoenix, its first-generation 100+ nuclear spin qubit quantum processor, has the potential to tick all those boxes. With the additional $60 million in Series B funding, I believe Atom could build a large second-generation quantum system of qubits that brings it to the brink of quantum advantage or possibly even achieves it.
- It is still early days in quantum computing to choose a technology that will ultimately be the best option for building error-free quantum systems capable of using several million qubits to solve world-changing problems. The technology that can eventually work at that level may not even be developed or in use today.
- We are still many years away from scaling to millions of logical qubits for all gate-based quantum computers.
- There are about three decades of previous research for various applications using neutral atoms. It recently emerged as a promising technology for building large-scale quantum computers.
- All qubits are brittle and susceptible to errors caused by interaction with the environment. Error correction is a serious research topic by almost every quantum company, including Atom Computing. It will not be possible to build large-scale quantum computers until a large-scale error correction method is developed. I expect significant progress to be made in 2022.
- In addition to increasing the number of qubits and error correction, Atom will also work on high-fidelity qubits.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.
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