360° Tour of Quantum Computing Lab (Story Labs 360)
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360° Tour of Quantum Computing Lab (Story Labs 360)

Today’s computers routinely do things we
wouldn’t have believed possible even a decade ago. But the world faces some challenges that are
so complex that today’s best computers would still need the lifetime of the universe to
solve them. That’s where quantum computing comes in. Quantum computers use quantum bits, or qubits,
that researchers believe will be able to process information exponentially faster than any
computer we have today. If we can build a robust, scalable quantum
computer, researchers believe the computer will be able to help us solve some of the
toughest problems facing humanity, from climate change to global hunger. Hi. I’m Allison Linn, and it’s my job is to
tell stories about the most innovative work Microsoft is doing. Today, I’m here in Lyngby, Denmark, where
we recently opened one of six labs we have all around the world that are just devoted
to quantum computing. Where I’m standing now, the raw materials
for that quantum bit, or qubit, we talked about would be leaving the clean room and
entering the quantum fabrication line. The whole quantum fabrication lab is just
behind this wall. So, let’s go inside and see what they’re
doing. I’m here with Peter Krogstrup, and he’s
the scientific director of this lab. And, Peter, I was hoping you could start by
talking a bit about how you got into quantum physics. Yeah, that’s a good question. It was not like I had a path. I started as a musician and played music throughout
the ‘80s. But then I went back to school studying physics
and from there it just took this direction towards quantum computing and it’s been
an amazing ride until now. So, tell us a little bit about what you guys
are trying to accomplish in this lab. So, we are trying to build the qubits for
the quantum computer we are trying to build. And to make qubits you need, there’s a lot
of requirements to build the materials for the qubits, it has to be ultra-clean, it has
to be in the right geometries, right material choices and so on and you have to – today
we don’t really have the fabrication equipment available to build these complex materials. So, what we are looking at here is really
something we have designed over several years to get to this stage of having material ready
to build the complex qubit material solutions we are looking for. OK, so you had to invent all the stuff in
order to make all those qubits. That’s true. Yeah. What’s going on underneath this tinfoil
here? It’s not like we are trying to hide anything
with the tinfoil. We are baking out this section of the system
because when you bake out and pump on it at the same time you make it cleaner and it’s
all about purity, really. Once you have decided on what materials you
want, what geometries you want to build then it’s all about making it as pure and defect-free
as possible. For that, you need ultra-clean conditions. So right now, we are spending a month baking
out the system, so it becomes cleaner. Right now, inside here we are baking at 200
degrees, when we are ready to grow, we run liquid nitrogen through the walls and then
it becomes minus 200 degrees. So, when we grow our crystals, the environment
around the actual crystal growth and the atoms we’re using is ultra-clean. Microsoft’s approach to quantum computing
is a little bit different. We’re building what’s called a topological
qubit. And, Peter, can you explain what a topological
qubit is and how it’s different from a regular qubit. Yeah, regular qubits have the disadvantage
of being very fragile. They interact with the environment very easily,
so you lose the information from the quantum state very fast, faster than you want. Topological qubits have the potential to be
much more stable in nature. But it’s a lot a bit more difficult to build
the materials that make the topological states. So that’s the chance we’re taking and
why we built this complex machine. To try to put all of the different layers
together. Each layer has its own requirements. So, we have to be sure that in order to get
the right properties in the system we go down to the end here and make sure the properties
of each of the component that makes up the topological qubit, keeping everything in a
vacuum and that loop will be faster than what we’re used to. Where to things go from here, Peter? Are we going to end up with quantum computers
in our pockets? That’s very unlikely because quantum computers
only work if you cool them to absolute zero and that’s minus 273 degrees. It’s not very suitable for your pocket. But we will have them placed in data centers
where we have the cryogenic cooling facilities and then we will get our problems solved via
the cloud. Got it. OK. And what are you expecting that people will
use quantum computers for? That’s difficult to predict actually because
it will open whole new fields probably. It’s a fundamentally different way of computing
than what we are used to, so it will open a lot of new fields that’s for sure. We know already now that there are certain
problems, we can solve faster because we’re already developed and have an idea of the
algorithms to solve certain problems now with a quantum computer and we can see that they
are exponentially faster than classic computers. But kind of predicting what people will use
them for in the future is too early. It has a huge potential. Well, thank you so much for giving us a tour
of your lab, Peter. We hope that you’ll stick around and explore
the space a little bit longer.


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