Seeking space applications for quantum computers

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COLORADO SPRINGS – Quantum Brilliance, an Australian and German quantum computing startup, is eager to identify space-based applications for its technology.

“I’m here because I’m very keen to talk to lots of potential customers about feasibility studies,” Mark Mattingley-Scott, Quantum Brilliance managing director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, told SpaceNews at the Space Symposium. “We really want to go into space as soon as possible.”

Last year, Quantum Brilliance delivered its first quantum computer to the government-funded Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Western Australia. While this initial product is about half a meter wide and fits in a standard server rack, the company is working on smaller models.

“We plan to get that down to a lunchbox size that consumers a couple hundred watts in the next few years,” said Mattingley-Scott, who spent nearly 32 years at IBM before joining Quantum Brilliance last year. “That’s a very interesting payload to put on a satellite in space.”

Most quantum computing technology requires extremely cold temperatures. Quantum Brilliance works with synthetic diamonds to create quantum computers that operate at room temperature.

Quantum computing technology is evolving rapidly, but most quantum computers remain extremely large.

Quantum Brilliance is working to develop quantum computers that can outperform conventional microprocessors, like GPUs, for the same size, weight and power.

“We were pretty certain we can get to quantum utility against the GPU in the next three years,” Mattingley-Scott said. “Those are the kind of timescales where for space, you need to start doing stuff now.”

In general, quantum computers are good at solving extremely complex, multifaceted problems.

For example, quantum computers could provide “much more accuracy but also more speed in optimization machine learning problems, pattern recognition and labeling,” Mattingley-Scott said.

Still, it’s impossible to imagine all the potential applications for quantum computing today just like it was impossible to chart future applications for early integrated circuits.

Quantum Brilliance, founded in Australia in 2019 established a German subsidiary last year.

The firm’s German subsidiary is working with Ulm University on a 15.6 million euros ($17.1 million) research project, funded by the German government and led by the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics. The three-year project, announced in January, is focused on scalable quantum microprocessor technology based on synthetic diamonds.