Finnish quantum sector moves ahead in leaps and bounds
Finland looks well positioned to foster and benefit from breakthroughs in the quantum space, with plans to build a 50-qubit system by 2024 among its national goals.Adobe
The tantalising promise of quantum computing is getting closer and closer partly because of efforts underway in Finland.
IQM Quantum Computers has announced the launch of IQM Spark, a product bundle consisting of a five-qubit quantum computer and tailored learning experiences for universities and research laboratories worldwide.
The bundle was launched late last month in response to “apparent” demand for tools that enable universities to provide skills to students of all levels and forge them into the next generation of quantum computing experts, according to Kuan Yen Tan, chief technology officer at IQM.
“Given the potential of quantum computing, the ecosystem will require a wide range of talent across electronics, chip fabrication, hardware design and software engineering. We are confident that our system will facilitate the learning experience and engage students with the physical system,” he stated.
The Espoo-headquartered developer of quantum hardware will also provide operational training and one year of free maintenance with the bundle.
The company has already delivered five-qubit computers to a handful of universities and research institutions, including VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Leibniz Supercomputing Centre in Germany.
IQM Spark addresses three major challenges faced by universities eager to provide hands-on experience to students: availability, affordability and learning materials.IQM
“Making on-premises quantum computer hardware available to our scientists and students as a low-barrier resource will give a boost to scientific progress and educate the next generation of quantum experts,” said Dieter Kranzmüller, board chairperson at Leibniz Supercomputing Centre.
Numerous electronic, photonic and quantum technology components operate exclusively at extremely low temperatures – quantum computers built from superconducting circuits, for example, require a temperature close to the absolute zero – that are today achieved by bulky and complex dilution coolers.
This approach of pumping cryogenic liquids is complicated especially at the coldest stage, where the refrigerant is a mixture of helium isotopes.
VTT, however, is developing a cooling technology based on microelectronics and electric current for low-temperature electronic and photonic components, promising a reduction in both the size and cost of cooling systems.
“A cooler the size of a car, which cools a silicon chip of about a square millimetre in size, could be shrunk by orders of magnitudes down to [the] size of a suitcase, for example,” it envisions, having already experimentally confirmed the functioning of the method.
The method is presently being refined into a commercial demonstrator under a project assigned to the research centre by the European Commission.
The electronic cooling method can be utilised also in applications outside the realm of quantum computing, such as sensitive radiation detectors and space technology.VTT
The European Innovation Council has granted 2.5 million euros in funding for a similarly oriented joint project by SemiQon and the Netherlands’ Qblox.
The two quantum technology developers have joined forces to build high-quality silicon-based spin qubits and the tools to control and operate them sustainably with a scalable quantum computing control stack. The 30-month project, the partners declared, paves the way for “truly scalable quantum computers” by bringing together the silicon-based quantum computers of SemiQon and the modular control stacks of Qblox.
The goal is to tackle two challenges – low qubit quality and high cooling needs – by implementing low charge-noise quantum dots and monolithically integrating a cryo-semiconductor multiplexer, essentially a multi-input, single-output switch.
The envisioned quantum computing architectures rely on the scalable fabrication of qubits and are operated with the scalable control stack.
SemiQon said the collaborative project will enable it to accelerate the development of high-quality qubits and processing units, advance the development of the spin-qubit control stack and demonstrate the scalability offered by its quantum processors.
“At SemiQon, we are already on track to build the most scalable, sustainable and cost-effective quantum processors,” stated Himadri Majumdar (left), CEO of the Espoo-based startup that spun off from VTT in 2023.VTT
Both companies have appointed a dedicated team to work on the project across two sites, in Espoo, Finland, and Delft, the Netherlands.
Countering post-quantum threats
SSH Communications Security has become part of the Post-Quantum Cryptography Building Block Consortium at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
The consortium was established to develop practices that facilitate migration from current public-key algorithms to more robust ones and create awareness of issues related to the migration to post-quantum algorithms. The Helsinki-based company described its inclusion as a proud moment and participation in the migration to post-quantum algorithms as an important milestone on its journey to secure the digital landscape against quantum threats – especially in the wake of retroactive attacks on key exchange in network communication protocols like TLS, SSH and IPsec.
NITS in August published the first draft of preferred post-quantum cryptographic algorithms in response to the need for enhanced cybersecurity against quantum threats. The algorithms include CRYSTALS-KYBER and CRYSTALS-DILITHIUM.
“Our experts are not only engaged in pioneering quantum computing resistant solutions but are also driving the search for the most robust algorithms to ensure the security of our customers and society’s communications once again,” said Teemu Tunkelo, CEO of SSH.
Suvi Lampila of SSH added that the company is also looking forward to the next step of migrating to quantum-safe signature algorithms that require an even broader industry effort.
A quantum leap
In Finland, the central administration is seeking to provide a springboard for the quantum leap. One of Europe’s top investors in the emerging technology and a long-time pioneer in low-temperature research, the country looks well positioned to foster and benefit from breakthroughs in the quantum space.
Among the national goals is to build a 50-qubit system by 2024.
While Finland has yet to adopt a national quantum strategy to turn research into commercial opportunities, educate the general population and address the social and ethical questions associated with quantum technologies – only 17 countries had at the beginning of the year – InstituteQ has drafted an agenda that could serve as the basis for one together with experts, detailing the prerequisites for supporting critical long-term development efforts.