Coming on the heels of the announcement last month that Harvard, MIT, QuEra and others were able to demonstrate a system with up to 48 logical qubits (see our articles here and here), QuEra has announced a roadmap for the next three years that will work to leverage this research along with experience fielding its Aquila 256 qubit analog quantum processor that takes the next steps to go beyond this milestone. QuEra’s will work to commercialize the fault tolerant technology to make it available to end users.

The company has created a three year roadmap with specific milestones for each year. Starting with their plans for 2024, they will offer a system that has greater than 256 physical qubits and provide 10 logical, error corrected, qubits that can support transversal gates. They will also provide a logical qubit simulator. We do not believe this system would provide a quantum advantage for any commercial application versus a classical computer. It is also important to note that only supporting transversal gates would not enable the processor to support a full universal gate set which limits which algorithms it can run with error correction. But it should make a good test vehicle for anyone looking to start experimenting with error correction. This 2024 machine will also continue to support the analog modes that people have been using with the current Aquila processor using QuEra’s Bloqade SDK for analog mode programming. But it will be QuEra’s first machine that support the digital mode and users will be able to program it using QASM or a QIR interface which will make it compatible with many programming platforms.

The challenge of translating academic lab work into a commercial system is one that has already been a pitfall for several early moving quantum startups. Delays in delivering roadmap expectations have been commonplace. GQI is encouraged to see that QuEra’s future roadmap timelines are broadly in line with its existing track record in moving the previous Aquilla device out of the lab into production.

The machine scheduled for 2025 makes two significant improvements. First, it will contain over 3000 physical qubits that will be able to provide 30 logical qubits. And second, this machine will be capable of non-Clifford gates, such as a T-gate, which will allow a user to have available a universal gate set. Such a universal gate set would allow the computer to implement any quantum algorithm with error correction, only limited by the number of available qubits. QuEra believes that this 2025 machine might be usable for early production applications, but that remains to be seen. It is generally thought that a high performance classical computer can simulate a 30 qubit quantum computer without any errors, so it might be hard to demonstrate a clear quantum advantage with this 2025 machine.

While commercial applications are unlikely, this machine can expect to be a popular testing ground for practical experimentation with different quantum error correcting codes. GQI feels that QuEra’s decision to also launch its ‘Logical Qubit Simulator’ is an interesting development, giving it an additional pillar with which to build its interaction with the community.

However, in 2026 the company is aiming to develop a much larger processor which contains over 10,000 logical qubits that would support 100 error corrected logical qubits. Such a machine would have a performance level well beyond what is capable of even the largest high performance classical computer and the company expects that end users would be able to use it to achieve a practical quantum advantage.

QuEra’s has a set deployment strategy on how machines are made available. The first stage is a university demo for internal testing and optimization. The second stage is to make a machine available directly through QuEra. We would expect these machines to be situated at QuEra’s site so that the engineers can closely watch over it. And finally, when a processor gets more mature it can be made available through one of the public cloud providers or even installed at a customer’s site as an on-premise installation. QuEra did announce last August that it was starting to take orders for on-premise quantum processors and we believe they have received some of their first orders for one.

While achieving this roadmap would put QuEra in a very competitive position, we still point out that, like all roadmaps, it is not devoid of risks. QuEra uses a unique qubit shuttling technology which certainly helps them to scale up the number of qubits at a much quicker pace. However, the shuttling does take time and the affect on overall program runtime is not yet fully known. (See a discussion of this in the podcast with MIsha Lukin and others for more about this issue.) This roadmap does not utilize multi-module technology that some of the other companies are pursuing for scaling up to the 100’s of thousand or millions of qubits. But GQI believes such an approach will be necessary for developing the larger quantum computers that we expect to see in the 2030’s. Still there is enough time for the company to work on this and we would hope they provide updates to the roadmap on a yearly basis. In the meantime, we wish them the best of success.

Additional details about the roadmap are available in a press release posted on the QuEra website here. The company has also created a webpage for end users to apply for early access to the 2024 QEC processor and it is available here.

January 8, 2024