1. August 2022
DLR Quantum Computing Initiative

Call for pro­pos­als for the de­vel­op­ment of quan­tum com­put­ers based on neu­tral atoms

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.
  • Qubits based on neutral atoms are considered to be a promising approach for quantum computing.
  • The project under tender envisages three and a half years of work culminating in the creation of systems with 100 qubits.
  • DLR will provide the necessary facilities at its innovation centres in Hamburg and Ulm.
  • Focus: Quantum technology, quantum computing, digitalisation

Prototype quantum computers with a number of different architectures are to be developed over the next four years as part of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Quantum Computing Initiative. DLR has published another call for proposals in this area, with the aim of acquiring a prototype quantum processor demonstrator based on neutral atoms. The system is to be expanded in several phases to 100 qubits or more. The project under tender will run for three and a half years.

Atomic shells become computational building blocks

Quantum computing is still in its early stages of development. There are various concepts for developing quantum computers, and it remains unclear which route will ultimately prevail in the market. Therefore, DLR is maintaining a broad-based approach and supporting a range of technological options in parallel, including quantum computers based on neutral atoms. Here, in a similar way to ion traps, information is stored and manipulated within the electron states of atoms. Individual qubits of this kind can be controlled using lasers. In order to allow two qubits to interact with each other – an essential function for a quantum computer – the atoms are placed in what are known as Rydberg states. Here, the outermost electron is significantly further away from the nucleus than it would normally be.

"One- and two-qubit gates have been demonstrated as the basic building block of a quantum computer based on neutral atoms. However, limited coherence times and gate performance still pose a challenge. Scaling up to a viable quantum computer requires further improvements that will be addressed by industry as part of this project," says Karla Loida, Project Manager for the Quantum Computing Initiative.

Competitive contract award procedure

DLR is involving companies, start-ups and other research institutions in its Quantum Computing Initiative so that all of the partners can make significant advances together. DLR has received funding for this purpose from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Klimaschutz; BMWK), enabling it to award large-scale contracts to companies through a competitive tendering process. DLR is also contributing its own capabilities and expertise to the research and development work. The current call for proposals is its sixth for quantum computing to date. DLR will provide the necessary facilities at its innovation centres in Hamburg and Ulm.

The deadline for submission of applications to participate is 2 September 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) can not 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
  • Robert Axmann
    Head Quan­tum Com­put­ing Ini­tia­tive
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Quan­tum Com­put­ing Ini­tia­tive
    Hansestraße 115
    51149 Cologne
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Qubits (quantum bits) are the smallest computing and storage units of a quantum computer, based on the laws of quantum mechanics. In contrast to the classic bits of conventional digital computers, which can only have states 0 and 1, qubits can assume an infinite number of intermediate values. Two-state quantum systems at the atomic level (for example atoms, ions or light quanta) or in solids (for example in semiconductors or superconductors) serve as qubits.

Coherence time

The interaction of a quantum physical system with its environment results in the phenomenon of decoherence – the emergence of classical properties and the loss of quantum physical properties such as superposition and entanglement. Given that algorithms for quantum computing exploit these properties, calculations must be performed before decoherence occurs. This period of time is known as coherence time, sometimes referred to as decoherence time.

Quantum mechanics / Quantum physics

Branch of physics in which physical processes are described in the world of the very smallest objects, at the atomic level.

Quantum computer

Novel form of computer that works on the basis of the laws of quantum physics. Its quantum bits (qubits) can not only assume the states 0 and 1, but also intermediate values. Quantum computers have the potential to solve certain tasks that classical computers are not able to.


The basic operations that can be performed by quantum computers, namely the building blocks of quantum circuits. These are always somewhat prone to error. Gate performance describes how effective the operations are compared to those that are perfect in theory.

Ion Trap

System of electromagnetic fields that spatially fixes charged atoms (ions). Ion traps are used for the implementation of quantum computers in which an ionised atom represents a quantum bit that is controlled and manipulated in the ion trap.