Orca computing, a UK startup established in 2019 has made claims of building one of the smallest quantum computers in the world. Richard Murray, the chief executive at Orca computing, while opening what looks like a standard server cabinet in Orca’s compact offices on a west London science park said they are changing the narrative and deviating from the typical quantum computer that operates by freezing qubits at cryogenic temperature to an approach that is functional at “room temperature”.
He also explained that this approach uses single photons which do not interfere with the outdoor environment.
More importantly, is the ability of its patented quantum memory to store and retrieve photons on demand. It also allows “room temperature” computers to be built with industry-standard components and optical fibres which enables high-speed operations, cost-effective operations, and data centre compatible quantum systems.
The major challenge identified by one of the UK’s leading quantum computing experts Prof Morton, was the ability of the Orca computer to scale up quickly. Scaling up is very important for the computer to be able to serve its purpose by performing complex, highly scientific and experimental tasks such as combating climate changes, accelerating artificial intelligence, ship navigation or even drug development. These tasks require millions of qubits to be successful when in reality, the Orca computer has just four qubits which is very far from ideal. However, the company assured that they will scale up in the next two years.
American company Rigetti, has made considerable progress in developing its quantum computer. Although what has been built does not resemble a standard computer, Mandy Birch explains that it has the cooling capability, control lines, and infrastructure that will support the UK’s first “practical” quantum computer. By the first “practical” quantum computer, it means it will be the first to be applied for commercial purposes in solving real-life problems. Standard Chartered Bank will use it to measure volatility in markets and Phasecraft will try to address energy issues such as improving batteries.
Quantum computing company Orca, has also signed a deal to collaborate with BT and BP to see whether plugging one of its devices into a data centre could help to produce more energy-efficient materials. Mr Murray has also admitted that the company is taking on bigger and better-funded American businesses. He describes their innovation as “great technologies” and says he is confident that with the support of the government and other partners, the UK can also compete. Read more about ORCA from their website and the BBC.