After decades of fundamental research, it appears that we are witnessing the dawn of practical quantum computing. Technologies that have demonstrated operation of a small number of quantum bits (qubits) are moving from the laboratory into commercial ventures, by large companies (IBM, Google, Intel, Microsoft) and new startups (IonQ, Rigetti). Building a truly scalable quantum computer faces enormous engineering challenges at many different layers, including devices, packaging, system-level hardware and software, compilers, algorithms, and applications. It should come as no surprise that ECE researchers, engineers, and educators are at the forefront of this revolutionary advancement of computing technology.
Prof. Jansung Kim and his team at Duke University have made significant strides in building a particular type of quantum computer, based on trapped ions. He is convinced that we have the building blocks to create a scalable quantum computer within a few years, and has co-founded a company (IonQ) to achieve that goal.
Researchers at the University of Michigan and their partners at universities in Germany have demonstrated effects with lasers and room-temperature semiconductor materials that could be used to develop future quantum systems that do not rely on extremely cold temperatures.
To transport quantum information between systems, photons offer the most stable solution, but even they are not suitable for distances more than 50 km. Engineers at the University of Toronto have developed an all-photonic quantum repeater, which allows for longer-distance quantum communication without the complexities of qubit-compatible hardware at each repeater stage.
As the quantum computing ecosystem grows, there will be a need for engineers and developers that know how to build future systems and to use them for solving new problems. To promote education and application development, IBM is creating the IBM Q Network, connecting leading universities such as NC State with companies and research labs to advance quantum computing. In a similar thrust, the University of Chicago and Harvard will lead the NSF-funded Quantum Information Science and Engineering Network (QISE-NET) to train graduate students in quantum engineering.