Recognizing Decades of Ground-breaking Quantum Computing Research

May 9, 2022

BROOMFIELD, COLO. - Quantinuum today honored researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for their technical achievements and contributions to the field of quantum computing.

In a ceremony at the company’s U.S. headquarters in Broomfield, President and Chief Operating Officer Tony Uttley recognized the decades of innovative research by NIST’s Ion Storage Group and the role it has played in the development of Quantinuum’s H-series hardware technology, which recently set an industry record for performance.

“It’s impossible to overstate the impact of the NIST Ion Storage Group and its research,” Uttley said. “Quantum computing has advanced to where it is today in large part because of this group and its commitment to making its work available.  Their research forms the basis for the trapped ion quantum computing technologies being developed by Quantinuum and others.  It is truly a technology transfer success story for the U.S. government.”

NIST’s Colorado-based ion trap group was formed in the late 1970s not long after Dr. David Wineland, demonstrated that by using lasers, it was possible to cool ions to low enough temperatures that they could be manipulated and controlled while trapped in electromagnetic fields.  

This discovery and the team’s subsequent research led to the development of some of the world’s most precise atomic clocks, a technology that helps enable Global Positioning Systems (GPS) satellites.

In the 1990s, the NIST group expanded its focus to quantum information processing and quantum computing.  In 1995, the NIST team successfully executed the world’s first entangling two-qubit quantum gate, an operation that is key to quantum computing.  

In 2000, the group demonstrated for the first time the more robust Mølmer-Sørensen gate, entangling four ion qubits. The Mølmer-Sørensen gate is at the heart of almost all ion-trap quantum computing gates today.

In 2002, the team published an article in Nature outlining the concept of the Quantum Charged Coupled Device (QCCD) architecture for a trapped ion-based quantum computer.  (Quantinuum uses this QCCD architecture in its H-Series hardware, Powered by Honeywell.)

These advancements and others led to Wineland sharing the 2012 Nobel Prize for Physics with Serge Haroche for "ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems.

The NIST team continues to advance trapped ion technologies. Quantinuum recently signed an agreement with NIST to collaborate on some trap design elements.  

Uttley said Quantinuum’s relationship with NIST is critical to the company’s success and its ongoing efforts to build the highest performing quantum computers in the world.

“The NIST team has a deep expertise in ion trap design, which will continue to help us on the technical side,” Uttley said. “The agency also has trained a great number of students and researchers over the years to become leading experts in the field and helped bolster the current and future quantum workforce.”

“Technology transfer is an important way that NIST achieves its mission of promoting U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness,” said Director of NIST’s Physical Measurement Laboratory Jim Kushmerick. “We are always excited to see our research applied to develop commercial products, particularly those with great potential such as quantum computing.”