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This Startup Raised $9 Million To Make Better Quality Quantum Computers

Quantum computing, once it truly arrives, is expected to make significant improvements for many different applications, from helping to fight climate change and improving the drug discovery process. . While there are quantum computers in operation, created by companies such as D-Wave, Rigetti, IBM and Google, none have the ability to solve practical problems faster than a conventional computer. Most observers think practical computing is a decade away, or even longer.

Atlantic Quantum, founded earlier this year by Bharath Kannan, Simon Gustavsson, Youngkyu Sung, Jonas Bylander and Tim Menke, aims to speed up that timeline by improving the basic hardware behind quantum computing. On Thursday, the company announced a $9 million seed investment led by The Engine, the venture firm from MIT. Other investors involved in this seed round include Thomas Tull, Glasswing Ventures, Future Labs Capital and E14.

Atlantic Quantum’s focus is building hardware that improves the “coherence” of quantum computation, reducing the errors that are the major speed bump for these machines. Qubits, the basic computing unit of a quantum computer, have an advantage over the bits in the computer or phone you’re reading this article because they don’t rely on the binary 1s and 0s that form the foundation of computer science today. Instead, qubits take advantage of the principles of quantum physics that allow them to exist in more than one state at once. In addition, this process enables the hardware to become faster as you add more qubits, while conventional computers only make linear gains.

Of course, that’s great, but now qubits never reach their theoretical computational speeds because the process creates computational errors that need to be fixed. That’s because of so-called “decoherence” — when qubits interact with their local environment, that changes their quantum states. It’s the subatomic equivalent of accidentally wiping off part of a math problem you’re doing on a whiteboard with your sleeve–you have to go back and do that part of the problem again.

Companies building quantum computers have done a lot to reduce the amount of decoherence their machines face. One solution is to keep everything as close to a temperature of absolute zero as possible, which helps limit interactions with nature. Other strategies are being worked on and deployed but many quantum computing companies are also spending their time focused on scale: building processors with more qubits. That’s the wrong way to go, argued Milo Werner, a general partner at Engine who joined Atlantic Quantum’s board. “Until now, prioritizing scale over qubit coherence has limited quantum potential. It’s exciting to see a different path forward — one that brings us closer to quantum reality,” he said in a statement.

Atlantic Quantum’s advantage, the company says, is the superconducting qubit known as fluxonium. Most quantum computers operating today use a different set up called a transmon qubit. “The properties of the fluxonium qubit differ from transmons in many ways, but the key difference is the much lower operating frequency of the fluxonium compared to the transmon,” said CEO Kannan. “This lower operating frequency has many consequences, including longer integration times and simpler control integration for fluxonium.” Kannan said. While Atlantik’s hardware has longer integration times, it is prone to errors like other qubits, so the company is also focusing on developing software for its qubits that can correct errors in their emergence

Currently, Atlantic Quantum has two headquarters, one in Boston and one in Sweden. The Boston office is focused on system integration and computer assembly. Cofounder Jonas Bylander, who is also an associate professor at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, will lead the effort to design and manufacture the chips for the company’s machines. The seed round allowed Atlantic Quantum to grow their team in two areas.

One of the reasons why Milo Werner is interested in investing in Atlantic is because of its origins in the quantum computer research lab at MIT led by William Oliver, which he describes as “second to none.” “This is an amazing founding team that we are excited to have back,” he continued. “We focus on supporting strong technical leaders and we’ve certainly seen that in Bharath and his team. We look forward to watching them grow.”

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