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After the IPO: IonQ takes on highly charged quantum computing challenge

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Ion-trapped quantum computer manufacturer IonQ is in the works. The company recently said its IonQ Aria system has reached a level of 20 qubits algorithms — a measure that is said to reflect the actual utility of qubits for a quantum computer in real-world settings. The company has also made IonQ Aria available on Microsoft’s Azure Quantum platform for what it describes as an extended beta program.

Furthermore, IonQ announced its first quarter as a publicly traded company. It reportedly generated $2.1 million in revenue in 2021 and expects revenue for 2022 to be between $10.2 million and $10.7 million. As for quantum computing, it is still early days when gamers are looking for great partners to test concepts.

A net loss of $106.2 million for 2021 contrasts with challenges ahead for IonQ, as well as other players in multi-state quantum computing looking to one day surpass traditional binary computers. Early application goals for these machines include coding, financial modeling, electric vehicle battery chemistry, and logistics.

By some measures, IonQ was late in the quantum computing race in 2019, when it first announced access to its platform via cloud partnerships with Microsoft and Amazon Web Services. This was followed by an appearance on the Google Cloud Marketplace, making the “Big 3” cloud trilogy, which other quantum players can also confirm.

But, if IonQ later entered the quantum computing race, it was early on for a quantum computing IPO.

Last year, IonQ announced that it was the world’s first purely working public quantum computing company. The IPO emerged as part of the SPAC, or Special Purpose Acquisition Company, which has come to be seen as an easier mechanism that companies can use to enter the public markets.

A plumber’s path to quantum computing leaps

The SPAC route is not without controversy, with companies taking this route seeing their shares plummet after less than racy introductions. This does not bother Peter Chapman, CEO of IonQ. Chapman told VentureBeat, the company made a profit of $636 million in the SPAC-borne IPO that will go toward the long-awaited commercialization of quantum devices.

“I no longer have to think about raising money and we are no longer subject to the whims of the market or foreign affairs, it seems, with [war in] Ukraine and everything that is going on, like a really good decision. ”

Funding the IPO gives IonQ employees a clear measure of the value of their stock options, he said, adding that this is important in the quantitative talent war that pits IonQ against some of the “world’s largest technology companies,” many of which use superconducting circuits rather than trapping ions.

It is clear that raising large sums from VCs or public markets is an “important component” for makers of quantum computing devices such as IonQ. The company originated from academic laboratories at the University of Maryland that was originally driven by a quantum science research partnership with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Now, the lab’s prototypes must be brought to production, where much of the money raised will be spent as quantum computers strive to become commercial, Chapman noted.

“We knew that within about 18 months of the IPO, we were preparing for manufacturing and that was going to require a lot of money. Being able to run faster was also a big part of what we wanted to be able to do,” Chapman said.

in the atomic clock

The transition to production on a larger scale is an obstacle for all quantum players. Advocates of ion trapping technology may claim some supremacy there, since parts of their core technology use methods long ago in atomic clocks.

“Using atomic clocks, you take ions and suspend them in a vacuum, lift them up above the surface using an RF field and isolate them completely. They are very stable and very precise,” Chapman said, referring to the factor that leads advocates of ion trapping to claim the better coherence of qubits—that is, the ability to Information retention – a competitive tactic.

Chapman notes that important atomic clock components have undergone miniaturization over the years, and versions now appear as units built into navigational satellites. This portends the kind of miniaturization that will help move a quantum computer from the lab to data centers. Of course, there are other obstacles ahead.

For IonQ, another facilitation bend appears in the company’s recent transition from ytterbium ions to barium ions. This is said to create qubits of much higher resolution.

In February, IonQ announced a public-private partnership with Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNNL) to build a sustainable source of barium qubits to power its IonQ Aria systems.

Chapman said that the qubit barium ions are controlled primarily by visible light, rather than the ultraviolet light required by ytterbium formulations. This UV light can damage hardware components, so visible light has benefits over UV light.

More important, according to Chapman, is the fact that many commercial silicon photons operate in the visible spectrum. Using the same technology found in a range of existing commercial products is advantageous because quantum computing seeks to minimize and enhance reliability.

Alongside IonQ’s partnerships with cloud operators comes a series of partnerships with industry operators such as Hyundai Motor (for battery electric chemistry modeling), GE Research (for risk management) and the Fidelity Center for Applied Technology (for quantum machine learning for finance). More such deals can be expected, as IonQ’s quantum computing efforts intensify and roll out.

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