Artificial intelligence will one day be ubiquitous. The smart chip market size is expected to show exponential growth, with functionality and computing speeds continually increasing. The design methods, alternative materials and computing architectures should also continue to change and evolve. Quantum computing has been attracting a lot of attention during recent years. At the annual conference organized by Industrial Technology Research Institute and Stanford University in June 2018, three experts from Silicon Valley came to Taiwan to share their thoughts about research and development of silicon photonics and quantum computing.
Is quantum computing going to put an end to computing as we know it today? When will quantum computing be prevalent in our society? Stanford University Professor Chuck Eesley presented his analysis on the history of artificial intelligence, robotics and electric vehicles. These emerging technologies can be dated back as early as the 1950s but commercialization only started a few years ago. Whilst these significant inventions were not widely adopted in a short period of time, they inspired major R&D and investment programs of existing technologies in the business world. For instance, the development of electric vehicles had stimulated the efficiency of internal combustion engines and the creation of hybrid vehicles.
The Rigetti Computing, a start-up founded in 2013 in Silicon Valley, has attracted the largest investments of quantum computing sector from venture capitalists to date. The company’s vision is to create the world’s most powerful computers.
Dr. Matthew Reagor, the director of engineering at Rigetti, shared their research status in quantum computing. He indicated that quantum computing is not the end of conventional computing. Rather, it has its own niches, particularly in machine learning, logistics route optimization, robotics, computational chemistry and clean energy. Currently the company’s major clients are the labs in academic and research institutions.
In terms of computing architecture, Rigetti Computing adopted a hybrid quantum computing strategy by combining the best of conventional computing and quantum computing. The goal is to come up with the optimal computing model and develop a comprehensive suite of quantum computing solutions, including chips, hardware, operating systems and a plethora of applications.
Professor Jelena Vuckovic of Stanford University, is an authority on photonics. She indicated that the movement speed of photonics is faster than electronics. Photonics can enable greater computing capacity and more efficient of entergy, and its applications include optical communication, conventional and quantum computing, sensing and imaging. In a nutshell, photonics is a rising star in the world of technology. However, the charateristics of the photon generated from current light sources is bulky, inefficient and very sensitive to fabrication and temperature.
Based on the theory of infrared light refraction of through silicon, Professor Vuckovic’s research team is working to develop miniature optical connecting structures to replace electric wires for the emission of photons and transmission of data. Currently, the design of optical devices requires multiple manual procedures for fine tuning, andthis affects the practicality of optical data transmission. The solution of inverse design algorithms is developed by the team to seek breakthroughs. Meanwhile, this photon structure design method can also be applied to diamond lattices to create high-efficiency SiV color centers to capture more photons. This approach enhances the practicality of quantum computing and quantum communication.
Matthew Reagor made some predictions about the commercialization of quantum computing. Currently, the biggest quantum computer has a capacity of less than 50 qubits at an error rate of 1%. Over the following five years, this may extend to 1,000 qubits at an error rate of 0.1%. Over the next 15 to 20 years, computers may be possible with a capacity of 1 million qubits at an error rate of <0.0001%. At this juncture, quantum computing will be commercialized at scale.
Jelena Vuckovic engaged in discussions with domestic academic and research teams in Taiwan during her stay. She also visited the Center for Quantum Technology in National Tsing Hua University. She felt that despite limited funding and resources, the senior scholars and young talents in quantum technology in Taiwan boast research quality comparable to leading international labs.
Continued investment will enhance Taiwan’s R&D strength and influence in quantum and photonics. With over 40 decades of experience in semiconductor manufacturing and years of corporate effort in the manufacturing process and equipment for nano devices, the integration of resources from academia, industries and research institutions will allow Taiwan to punch above its weight in the quantum repeaters required for quantum memory and quantum communication.