Seven Quantum Companies utilising Ion Trap Technology to build the future of Quantum Computing

Many quantum computing giants like Google and IBM have one thing in common – their approach. The most popular approach for building quantum computers among these large companies is the use of superconductors. Yet another approach that had been overlooked for years is gaining momentum: trapped ions. In this article, we’ll learn about the companies making the most of trapped ions in quantum computing.

What are Trapped Ion Quantum Computers?

The meaning is in the name. Trapped ion quantum computers use a specific technology in their approach. The qubits of a trapped ion quantum computer are ions that are trapped by electric fields and manipulated using lasers. 

This approach to quantum computing has long been preferred by those in the academic community, but it is now gaining momentum in the business space as quantum companies race to establish advantage over their competitors.

IonQ

The first company on our list made headlines in October 2021 for becoming the first pure-play quantum company to go public with a 2.8-billion-dollar market capitalization. The company was founded by Chris Monroe and Jungsang Kim in 2015. 

Since its founding, IonQ has built two quantum computers using ion traps, as well as partnered with companies like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and Google to make their trapped ion quantum computers available through the cloud. 

IonQ has been able to build such buzz largely in part due to the still-huge potential the company has for scale with its computers, which includes having multiple chains of ions on a chip, error correction, and clustering their chips into larger systems.

“What is interesting is that we’ve built the trap to have several zones. This is one of our strategies for scale. Right now, at IonQ, we have exactly one chain of atoms, these are the qubits, and we typically have a template of about 32 qubits… A smaller chain is really stiff [and] much less noisy. So 32 is a good number. 16 might be a good number. 64 is a good number, but it’s going to be somewhere probably under 100 ions,”

– Chris Monroe, Co-founder and Chief Scientist, IonQ.

Honeywell

Second on our list is Honeywell, an American advanced technology company that serves a myriad of industries including Healthcare and pharma, retail, supply chain,aerospace and defense, finance, and more. For over a decade, Honeywell has been working on developing quantum solutions to the clients they serve across these various industries in order to revolutionize the way their clients work.

Honeywell’s use of trapped ions differs from that of the first company, IonQ. Honeywell’s method also enables any two qubits to communicate with one another. However, it accomplishes this by physically pushing ions close together, allowing a single pulse of light to impact both of them at the same time.

Honeywell claims that trapped ion qubits can be manufactured and controlled more quickly and easily than alternative qubits due to their atomic structure, which is why they are referred to as ‘Nature’s Qubits.’

“What makes our quantum computers so powerful is having the highest quality qubits, with the lowest error rates.  This is a combination of using identical, fully connected qubits and precision control,”

– Tony Uttley, President, Honeywell Quantum Solutions.

Infineon Technologies

Another company applying the trapped ions approach to quantum computing is Infineon Technologies, a German company. They serve a myriad of industries with their technology solutions that provide solutions to the problems of their clients. One of their latest solutions are their trapped ion quantum computers.

Infineon is a company widely known for their semiconductor chip products, but in recent years, they have branched into the world of trapped ion quantum computing. The company believes in investing in multiple approaches to quantum computing at once. 

“We are still a long way from deciding which technological path will make the fastest progress possible and which applications will be successfully handled by quantum computers. Infineon is therefore conducting research on a variety of approaches… The close cooperation in these projects will accelerate the pace of development and will establish the basis for a successful future.”

– Dr. Reinhard Ploss, CEO of Infineon.

Alpine Quantum Technologies

Next on our list is Alpine Quantum Technologies, an Austrian quantum company co-founded in 2018 by three people;Professor Rainer Blatt, Dr. Thomas Monz, and Professor Peter Zoller. Monz serves as the company’s CEO.

Alpine working on developing modular trapped ion quantum computers with more than a hundred qubits as a rack-mount system. According to Alpine, rack individual module can be used as a stand-alone component for academics research and time standards for real-world applications like time-keeping instruments for uses in GPS technology and high speed trading. The advantage of the company’s modular approach is that clients can upgrade these devices to universal quantum computers.

EleQtron

EleQtron is a German quantum computing hardware company founded in 2020. According to the company, they have developed a groundbreaking concept that they call MAGIC which allows for the reliable and precise control of qubits using high-frequency technology that is inexpensive, established and miniaturizable.

MAGIC stands for MAgnetic Gradient Induced Coupling. This allows for qubits to be controlled with scalable radio frequency fields and static magnetic fields. Christof Wunderlich, founder and co-CEO of eleQtron is credited with inventing the concept. 

Quantinuum

Quantinuum is a relatively new company, however it was formed by a merger between Honeywell Quantum and Cambridge Quantum. Honeywell Quantum Solutions is abusiness unit under Honeywell International, one of the company’s we have discussed on this list.

Cambridge Quantum is a software focused quantum company that develops agnostic quantum software. It was founded in 2014 by Ilyas Khan. Their software services are developed for various sub sectors within quantum including quantum chemistry, quantum machine learning and more.

In 2021, the two companies merged to create one company called Quantinuum. Honeywell international still intends to be a first partaken or proving ground of sorts of the products that will emerge from the newly merged companies.

Universal Quantum

Universal quantum is one of the quantum companies in the race to build the world’s first million-qubit quantum computer, among the likes of PsiQuantum. The company boasts a unique approach though which entails using electronic quantum computing modules that are based on silicon technology.

“Universal Quantum’s scalable approach to building quantum computers overcomes major barriers to large-scale quantum computing using trapped-ions. Instead of complex laser-based technology, we process quantum information by applying voltages to a microchip analogous to a classical transistor. Where other devices use complex photonic interconnects between quantum computing modules, we use ultra-fast electric field connections that can be orders-of-magnitude faster and rely on much simpler engineering.”

– Professor Winifried henSinger, Co-founder and chief scientist, universal quantum

Conclusion

As quantum computing becomes more and more commercially viable, quantum companies are looking for the best approach to gain a leg up on the competition. Trapped ion quantum computing has proven to be a one of such approaches, and we might see many more quantum companies adopting additional approaches like trapped ions to their already existing technologies.

Some of these existing approaches by other firms include superconductors like those used by larger players such as Google and IBM, or photons used by startups like Nu Quantum.