Event: APS March Meeting 2023 (Live Portion)
Date: March 5-10, 2023 (The virtual portion of the meeting will take place on March 20-22, 2023)
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Estimated In-Person Attendance: Well over 10,000
APS March Meeting was massive in size and is the largest physics related conference anywhere. Although the conference will cover all sorts of physics topics, more and more of the conference is being devoted to quantum computing, quantum communication, and quantum sensing developments. We heard that the DQI (quantum related) sub-group within the APS is now one of the fastest growing within APS and currently has 3300 members. We counted over 200 sessions devoted to quantum topics with roughly 3,000 separate presentations. Overall the conference had over 900 sessions with 12,500 presentations covering new research in climate science, medicine, biological physics, quantum information, superconductivity, condensed matter and more. Part of the reason there were so many presentations is because there is no curated selection of presentations. All relevant presentations that are submitted are accepted.
This is a very technical conference. Many of the attendees were students and postdocs with heavy attendance from academia. There were no presentations on market size, applications, or all the usual things you might see at other quantum related conferences.
The overall impression was that there are a lot of people doing research into all types of quantum tech from software to architectures to materials and more. Most of the presentations ended with a final slide that said “We’re Hiring” and there was no sign that anyone is reducing their activities in quantum.
There were a lot of sessions about specific topics and modalities. For example, example, there were ten sessions devoted to superconducting, six sessions devoted to semiconducting qubits, and nine sections devoted to error correction. And within each session there were somewhere between 10-15 presentations per session, although many were limited to only 12 minutes in length.
Although not directly related to quantum, the one presentation that received the most notoriety, both within the physics communication and among the popular press was one from the University of Rochester on ambient temperature superconductors. Interest was so high in this presentation that the organizers needed to hire security guards to make sure that the presentation room would not exceed its capacity.
Although there weren’t any quantum product announcements that we saw at the conference, several of the presentations contained hints about future products. Quantinuum provided several presentations that mentioned their upcoming H2 “racetrack” processor. The H2 has 32 qubits, perhaps more, and contains 8 gate zones versus 5 in their current H1-1. They indicated that the qubit fidelities were in the same range as the current H1. Quantinuum has a machine operating in their labs and indicated they will be formally announcing it soon.
Intel had a presentation on their 12 qubit device which they are testing in the lab. The initial tests were performed with a device built upon a natural silicon substrate which contains a mixture of different silicon isotopes. However, they indicated they are now starting to test devices built with purified Silicon-28 which is free from both electric and magnetic disturbance due to neutron spins. This provides a significant improvement in qubit coherence time which Intel estimated to be about 4X. Intel is currently using external room temperature control electronics for their qubits, but plan on soon moving to their cryoCMOS Horseridge 2 chip which runs at a few kelvin for the control signals. Intel has indicated they will be making an initial prototype of their spin qubit design available later this year and we suspect that will occur after they have fully moved to Silicon-28 and Horseridge 2.
PsiQuantum described additional details on their efforts with a focus on some of the unique materials and devices they are using. Although they may have started with standard telecom devices for their machine, they are now developing enhanced devices like single photon detectors and phase shifters for performance. They did indicate they are seeing 99.996% single gate fidelity and 99.3% two-qubit gate fidelity.
Diraq discussed their spin qubit efforts with a goal of integrating CMOS control logic directly on the chip. They indicated they are currently testing a 4 qubit device built at a university fab with efforts to move to a Tier 1 semiconductor foundry for higher capacities. Ultimately, they are seeking to have several million qubits on one module which would allow them to skip networking a large number of individual processors to achieve scale up.
IBM did not present anything new on the hardware side, but did report on a demonstration of a quantum circuit with 127 qubits with a depth of 60. They leveraged two algorithms they have been working on for error mitigation called Probabilistic Error Cancellation (PEC) and Zero Noise Extraction (ZNE). A depth of 60 is quite good, but this is just a stepping zone to a 100×100 challenge that they announced recently.
Although many of these efforts are substantial incremental improvements around existing technology, one of the more innovate concepts we heard was from the University of Chicago which is working on a dual-species Rydberg array of rubidium and cesium atoms. This is a neutral atom design that places the rubidium and cesium atoms in a checkerboard type array. The advantage is that gate controls on the rubidium won’t affect the cesium and vice-versa. This provides a significant advantage in that virtually eliminates cross-talk. They also described how they could use interspecies gate operations to have one species serve as ancilla qubits while the other could be used at data qubits. This could be used for error correction and other schemes.
There were a lot more interesting technical disclosures at the conference. However, because of the enormous number of papers being presented, I could only sit through a fraction of them. In many of the time slots there were a dozen or more quantum presentations going on simultaneous.
There was a large exhibition floor packed with many companies that supply components or software. A large percentage of them were targeting companies in the quantum space although many of them also provide components to organizations doing research in other areas of physics. Since this is not a conference that had a lot of end users as attendees, many of the quantum hardware providers such as AWS, Google, Microsoft, Pasqal as well as quantum software providers such as Zapata, Strangeworks, QC Ware, Multiverse to name just a few did not have exhibits. But all the companies that provide dilution refrigerators and all the companies that provide control electronics certainly had booths on the exhibit floor.
The APS will be having the second half of this conference as a virtual conference that will occur on March 20-22, 2023. This will include additional presentations that were not included in the in-person conference. For example, Intel will have three presentations that provide additional details on their Intel Quantum SDK. In addition, almost all the presentation made at the in-person meeting will be posted on-line by March 20, 2023 and will be available until June 30th. So for those who could not attend or who wasn’t able to attend a particular session, you will have a chance to view the recording.
The event also included a few non-technical sessions including Job Expos, Get-Togethers, Vendor Parties, Short Courses, a special session featuring Nobel laureates, and another special session reviewing the first four years of the National Quantum Initiative.
Besides being overwhelmed with the number of quantum related presentation, the only other complaint about the conference regarded the logistics. Many of the presentation rooms were filled to overflowing with standing room only. In addition, the hallways were packed in-between sessions and lines just to get coffee seemed like they were a half-hour long. Its not clear that this particular venue used in Las Vegas was optimum for this conference. Next year it will be held in Minneapolis which we hope will be a little better suited for this type of conference and a little more comfortable for the attendees.
To learn more about all the presentations and exhibits that occurred at the APS March Meeting, you can visit the web page at https://march.aps.org/. You can click on the section that says Scientific Session Search to view all the papers that were presented along with their abstracts. You can click on the section that says Explore the Exhibit Hall to see which vendors had exhibits. And you can click on the button that says Explore the Virtual Meeting to see what is coming up in the Virtual Meeting on March 20-22.
March 17, 2023