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Forschungszentrum Jülich Establishes Technology Laboratory for Quantum Computers

Quantum computer research will be established at Forschungszentrum Jülich as a national priority. The Helmholtz Quantum Center (HQC) will be a central technology laboratory that will cover the entire range of quantum research – from investigating quantum materials to developing prototypes. The project, which is funded by the Helmholtz Association with almost €50 million (~$54.8 million), launched in January 2020.

Press release from Jülich Supercomputing Centre
February 6th 2020 | 804 readers

View of the inside of the European quantum computer OpenSuperQ (currently under construction) at Jülich’s Peter Grünberg Institute. Image courtesy of Forschungszentrum Jülich / Ralf-Uwe Limbach.
View of the inside of the European quantum computer OpenSuperQ (currently under construction) at Jülich’s Peter Grünberg Institute. Image courtesy of Forschungszentrum Jülich / Ralf-Uwe Limbach.
“Quantum computing will change our world – in science, industry, the economy, and our everyday lives,” explains Prof. Sebastian Schmidt, member of the Board of Directors of Forschungszentrum Jülich. “Establishing quantum computing in science and industry is one of the great challenges of the coming years and will require an enormous degree of cooperation. The Helmholtz Quantum Center (HQC) will be the Helmholtz Association’s central infrastructure to meet the scientific and technological challenges that building a European quantum computer entails.”

The field of quantum technologies and quantum computing receives a high degree of attention at even the highest levels of scientific and economic politics. Due to the expected influence on all areas of science, the economy, and the population, Europe’s technological independence is crucial. On the one hand, it is a major component of future cybersecurity concepts. On the other hand, the field of quantum computing has recently become particularly dynamic and is a fast-growing industrial sector. International investments in quantum computing are massive, in China and the USA in particular – despite the fact that scientific excellence and expertise to a large degree originate in European research.

Opportunities for regional science and industry

In addition to the key role in the national strategy, the Helmholtz Quantum Center will offer particular opportunities for the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) to become one of the most important European innovation regions for quantum technology. This is important not only for science, but especially for the economy and industry in this region undergoing structural change.

“An open atmosphere for research and networking between all areas – science, the economy, industry – are essential for us,” explains Stefan Tautz, who heads Jülich’s Peter Grünberg Institute and will represent the scientific side during the launch phase of the HQC. “American tech-companies are currently trailblazing in this research, like the Windows and iOS of quantum computing. Our aim is to create a type of Linux of quantum computing through the HQC.”

From individual qubits to complete systems

At the HQC, researchers will investigate different kinds of qubits – the quantum computer equivalent of conventional computer bits – ranging from technologically advanced systems to promising newer concepts. Each type of qubit has its own advantages and disadvantages, and it is presently unclear which concept will ultimately prevail in the long run.

As part of the EU Flagship Project OpenSuperQ, Jülich scientists like Prof. David DiVincenzo and Prof. Kristel Michielsen and European partners are therefore investigating superconducting qubits, which will be adopted for the construction of a European supercomputer at Jülich. “A new team of scientists is currently putting our first quantum computer laboratory into operation. As part of the OpenSuperQ Flagship Project, we are receiving small prototypes of superconducting quantum computer chips for testing from our European partners,” explains DiVincenzo. “We intend to contribute to each phase of the quantum hardware scale-up.”

An alternative platform, atomic qubits in optical traps, is being developed for quantum simulations in the Flagship Project PASQUANS, in which Jülich theoretician Tommaso Calarco is involved: “Our scientific partners from all over Europe are working on experiments for the targeted manipulation of cold atoms to investigate the properties of complex quantum materials. For some such issues, we expect to exceed the computing power of existing computers as early as within the next few years.

Such quantum processors of different types will be the basis for the future of the European quantum computing and simulation infrastructure, in which Jülich can play an important role.

Other types of qubits cannot yet be controlled as well or are still at an early stage of development, such as semiconductor qubits. Furthermore, new ideas such as qubits based on topological insulators will be tested.

Under one roof

The HQC pools six research fields and seven technology clusters, thus combining basic research, theory, and development – from quantum materials to complete quantum computer systems. Research into materials for qubits is combined with manufacturing devices and systems for quantum computers and the co-design of hardware and software. JUNIQ, the Jülich user infrastructure for quantum computing launched in October, will be the unified portal for the different quantum computers, accessible to German and European users via cloud.

The quantum centre will be housed in a new building to be constructed on the campus of Forschungszentrum Jülich, and will be equipped with the most advanced experimental technology. It will also have a direct connection to the Helmholtz Nano Facility and be closely interconnected with Forschungszentrum Jülich’s institutes.

The new centre will additionally house two new institutes – for quantum control and quantum computers – as well as the JARA Institute for Quantum Information, which was established as part of the Jülich Aachen Research Alliance. Jülich’s laboratory within the scope of the European Quantum Flagship will also be housed in the new building.

The HQC will be open to regional universities, national and European partners from science and industry, and joint projects in selected research fields. For this purpose, laboratory and office space will be provided for visiting scientists, as well as special meeting places for the exchange of scientific ideas.

The Helmholtz Quantum Center will take up its work in early 2020 and become fully operational in 2025.

Thomas Rachel, member of the German Bundestag and Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Education and Research said, “We have to keep up so that our industry does not become dependent on other countries and remains able to make decisions freely in future,” declares Thomas Rachel, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Education and Research (BMBF). “For this reason, it is crucial to maintain and develop expertise on all aspects of quantum computing in Europe. It is not too late to expand Europe’s capacities in this field, but investments must be made now. Expanding the quantum computing priority at Forschungszentrum Jülich is thus an important contribution to implementing our strategies at the level of the Helmholtz Association as well as the German and European level.

Isabel Pfeiffer-Poensgen, North Rhine-Westphalia’s State Minister of Culture and Science said, “The fact that the Helmholtz Quantum Center is being established in Jülich attests to the outstanding scientific excellence of Forschungszentrum Jülich in the field of quantum technology. With the HQC for application-oriented basic research as well as the JUNIQ quantum computing user infrastructure, Forschungszentrum Jülich will offer science and industry in North Rhine-Westphalia excellent links with this exciting technology of the future. This shows that North Rhine-Westphalia as a location for research has an outstanding position in the field of quantum computing.

Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart, Minister of Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalization and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia said,  “Quantum technologies are expected to enable pioneering advances in industry, science, and society, as well as technological solutions far exceeding what is possible today. I am delighted that this ambitious project is being launched and will provide North Rhine-Westphalia with the opportunity of developing into one of the most important innovation locations for quantum technologies in Europe. Thanks to its innovative power, Forschungszentrum Jülich will develop visibility not only nationally, but internationally as well. The Helmholtz Quantum Center can become the nucleus of knowledge-based innovations, new technologies, and start-ups, and thus also offers an excellent basis for the development of novel, pioneering jobs in North Rhine-Westphalia. The Ministry of Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalization and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia and its quantum technology coordination office are happy to support the Helmholtz Quantum Center with its expertise.

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