$665 million quantum computer 'needs photonics'

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PsiQuantum has raised $450 million in series D funding to build the world’s first commercially viable quantum computer, bringing the total raised up to $665 million.

PsiQuantum was founded in 2016 by quantum computing experts, who understood that a useful quantum computer required fault-tolerance and error correction, and therefore at least one million physical qubits. The company includes a growing team of world-class engineers and scientists who are working on the entire quantum computing stack, from the photonic and electronic chips, through packaging and control electronics, cryogenic systems, quantum architecture and fault tolerance, to quantum applications.

In May 2020, the company started manufacturing the silicon photonic and electronic chips that form the foundation of the Q1 system, a significant system milestone in PsiQuantum’s roadmap to deliver a fault-tolerant quantum computer.

Quantum computing is anticipated to unlock the solutions to otherwise impossible problems, enabling extraordinary advances across a broad range of applications including climate, energy, healthcare, finance, agriculture, transportation, materials design, and more.

Jeremy O'Brien, CEO and co-founder of PsiQuantum. 'It is my conviction that the way to bring this technology into reality is by using photonics. Our company was founded on the understanding that leveraging semiconductor manufacturing is the only way to deliver the million qubits that are known to be required for error correction, a prerequisite for commercially valuable quantum computing applications. This funding round is a major vote of confidence for that approach.'

Unlike other quantum computing efforts, PsiQuantum is focused on building a fault-tolerant quantum computer supported by a scalable and proven manufacturing process. The company has developed a unique technology in which single photons are manipulated using photonic circuits which are patterned onto a silicon chip using standard semiconductor manufacturing processes. PsiQuantum is manufacturing quantum photonic chips, as well as the cryogenic electronic chips to control the qubits, using the advanced semiconductor tools in the production line of PsiQuantum’s manufacturing partner GlobalFoundries.

'To see this promising technology deployed within a reasonable time frame requires it to be built using a scalable manufacturing process. Silicon photonics combined with an advanced quantum architecture is the most promising approach we’ve seen to date,' said Tony Kim, managing director at BlackRock.

Samir Kumar, managing director at Microsoft’s venture fund M12, added: 'We are impressed by the technical progress we have seen in hardware development along with refinement of a novel quantum architecture ideally suited for photonics. PsiQuantum and Microsoft have a shared perspective on the need for a good number of logical qubits enabled by fault tolerance and error correction on 1 million-plus physical qubits, when it comes to building a truly useful quantum computer.'

The funding round was led by funds and accounts managed by BlackRock, along with participation from insiders including Baillie Gifford and M12 – Microsoft’s venture fund – and new investors including Blackbird Ventures and Temasek. 

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