20. December 2021
DLR Quantum Computing Initiative

Call for pro­pos­als to con­struct pho­ton­ic quan­tum pro­ces­sors

Futuristic technology with qubits
Fu­tur­is­tic tech­nol­o­gy with qubits
Credit: © Production Perig / AdobeStock

Futuristic technology with qubits

Quan­tum com­put­ers work with qubits, which fol­low the laws of quan­tum physics. This paves the way for new al­go­rithms that are not pos­si­ble on con­ven­tion­al com­put­ers. The bits of con­ven­tion­al com­put­ers recog­nise on­ly two states: 0 and 1. Qubits, in con­trast, can have an in­fi­nite num­ber of in­ter­me­di­ate val­ues.
  • Photonic circuits are considered to be a promising technological approach for quantum computing.
  • After four years of research, systems with more than 100 qubits should be achievable within the proposed project.
  • DLR is inviting companies, start-ups and other research institutions to participate in the DLR Quantum Computing Initiative.
  • Focus: Quantum technology, quantum computing, digitalisation.

As part of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Quantum Computing Initiative, prototype quantum computers of different architectures are to be constructed within the next four years.

"To this end, we are collaborating with companies, start-ups and other research institutions. The goal is to jointly advance the development of hardware and software, as well as increase the range of applications for quantum computers," explains Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla, Chair of the DLR Executive Board. "To achieve this, the necessary expertise is being consistently built up, from research and development to innovative fields of application. DLR is contributing its own part to the project in the form of research and development."

DLR has been provided with resources by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Klimaschutz; BMWi) for the development and construction of quantum computers and software. To advance this objective, DLR will award large-scale contracts through a competitive tendering process.

Individual photons become computational building blocks

There are different concepts for the development of quantum computers. For example, the processors could be realised using ion traps or Nitrogen Vacancy (NV) centres. Another technological approach for quantum computing is the use of photonic circuits. In this case, the qubits are based on photons. In this case, photons are used as information carriers. The advantages of this technique are that the platforms can be operated at room temperature, it is particularly easy to interface with quantum communications technologies, and that it has a significant scaling potential. However, quantum processors on a photonic basis have been less developed so far compared to other systems.

DLR has now issued another call for proposals in this regard. The goal is to obtain a prototype photonic quantum processor that is scalable and error correctable. It should be able to run generic algorithms with a high degree of user friendliness. The number of input modes and photonic qubits will grow through several phases. The construction will be done in two stages, up to at least 64 photonic qubits. The first stage, comprising of eight qubits, is to be reached after three years, and the second phase after the total project duration of four years – with the possibility to scale up to systems with more than 100 qubits.

Applications to participate can be submitted until the 31 January 2022.

Rapid computations with quantum bits

Quantum computers are an important technology for the future. They can perform calculations and simulations in specific fields of application much faster than conventional supercomputers. Their use is possible, for example, in the transport and energy sectors, but also in fundamental research or even in satellite operations. Quantum computers work on the basis of quantum physics. Their quantum bits (qubits) cannot only assume the states 0 and 1, but also intermediate values, distinguishing then from conventional computers and allowing them to be so powerful. At DLR, several institutes are already working with quantum technologies. There is also a great need at DLR to conduct research on and with quantum computers in the future.

  • Katja Lenz
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)

    Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Me­dia Re­la­tions
    Telephone: +49 2203 601-5401
    Linder Höhe
    51147 Cologne
  • Dr. Robert Axmann
    Head Quan­tum Com­put­ing Ini­tia­tive
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Quan­tum Com­put­ing Ini­tia­tive
    Hansestraße 115
    51149 Cologne
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