Construction of a quantum computer begins at Aalto University

10.10.2017

Docent Mikko Möttönen's working group has received nearly one million euros in funding for the construction of a quantum computer.

Photo of the centimeter-sized silicon chip which has three separate superconducting quantum bits. Photo: Jan Goetz/Aalto-yliopisto

The working group headed by Aalto University Docent Mikko Möttönen received a total of EUR 950,000 in funding from the Technology Industries of Finland Centennial Foundation and Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation. The working group applied for funding through Future Makers, a joint funding programme administered by the two foundations to find bold, new research ideas.
 
Möttönen's group will begin development of a scalable quantum computer in Finland. The objective is to first build a quantum processor, which can be scaled (i.e. made into a larger processor) in the future. As no one has yet been able to build a quantum computer, which is capable of solving practical problems extremely quickly, getting started on this endeavour is of the utmost importance.
 
‘Although there are different kinds of quantum computer prototypes out there, this technology is still in its infancy.  A large-scale quantum computer will make the impossible possible. It will be able to quickly solve extraordinarily difficult problems, which would take conventional computers over a billion years to solve,’ explains Möttönen.
 
The foundations providing the funding believe in the importance of the work being undertaken by Möttönen's group.
 
‘A quantum computer can come up with answers to a wide range of questions in everything from medicine to climate change. The goal of building the first Finnish quantum computer is very ambitious and, if successful, will be an international breakthrough,’ says Laura Juvonen, Director of the Technology Industries of Finland Centennial Foundation.

Quantum computer a useful tool in the production of pharmaceuticals

A quantum computer makes use of quantum mechanics in computation. It can be used to model, among other things, chemical compounds and reactions (e.g. pharmaceuticals and fertilisers) in an entirely new way.
 
‘If we could precisely simulate chemical reactions using a computer, we wouldn't need to go over every single alternative in the lab,’ explains Möttönen.
 
The work being done by Möttönen's group is supported by the development of superconducting circuits done over the last decade. Superconductivity is a phenomenon, in which electrical resistance disappears below a certain temperature. Superconducting circuits facilitate the mass generation of quantum bits, or qubits. They can be used to make a scalable architecture for a quantum computer.
 
‘Even here in Finland, superconducting quantum bits have been generated for years. Although there's a great deal of expertise available, no one has set out to build a quantum computer because there weren't enough resources for such an undertaking. With this funding, we can now begin the systematic construction of a quantum computer,’ says Möttönen.

Centre of Excellence begins work

Aalto University has a high level of research expertise in quantum technology, thus making it an exceptional place for the development of a quantum computer. At the turn of the year, Aalto will open the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Quantum Technology, whose group heads are also involved in the development of a quantum computer.
 
‘The Centre of Excellence will support Möttönen's project and vice versa. We absolutely want to be profiled as leading experts in quantum technology,’ states Academy Professor Jukka Pekola, who is head of the Centre of Excellence in Quantum Technology.
 
In addition to Aalto University, researchers from the University of Turku and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland are also part of the working group. With the nearly one million euros in funding, the group will be able to begin development of a quantum computer, but not bring it to completion. The group's work is also supported by a billion-euro EU flagship initiative, which will be launched in 2018. The aim of the flagship initiative is to accelerate the development of quantum technologies together with member states and the business sector.
 
‘The contribution made by the foundations allows us to play a more central role in the EU flagship initiative. We'll be able to highlight our strengths and showcase our expertise on the world stage,’ says Möttönen.


Members of Mikko Möttönen's working group:
From Aalto University: Professor Tapio Ala-Nissilä, Professor Christian Flindt, Professor Pertti Hakonen, Docent Mikko Möttönen, Docent Sorin Paraoanu, Academy Professor Jukka Pekola and Professor Zhipei Sun.
From VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland: Docent Juha Hassel, PhD Mika Prunnila
From University of Turku: Professor Sabrina Maniscalco.

 
More information
 
Docent Mikko Möttönen
Aalto University
tel. +358 50 594 0950
mikko.mottonen@aalto.fi
 
Laura Juvonen
Director, Technology Industries of Finland Centennial Foundation:
tel. +358 40 589 6263
laura.juvonen@teknologiateollisuus.fi
 

Watch the quantum physicists explain the operating principle of quantum bit refrigeration in two minutes using a sledge and a hole in the ice. Video: Aalto University.