QuEra Press Releases

MAY 5, 2022 - BOSTON, MA

Collaborators from Harvard University and QuEra Computing observe quantum speed-up in optimization problems

A collaboration between Harvard University with scientists at QuEra Computing, MIT, University of Innsbruck and other institutions has demonstrated a breakthrough application of neutral-atom quantum processors to solve problems of practical use. The work led by Professors Mikhail Lukin and Markus Greiner at Harvard and Vladan Vuletic at MIT, titled “Quantum Optimization of Maximum Independent Set using Rydberg Atom Arrays,” was published on May 5th, 2022, in Science Magazine.

Previously, neutral-atom quantum processors had been proposed to efficiently encode certain hard combinatorial optimization problems. In this landmark publication, the authors not only deploy the first implementation of efficient quantum optimization on a real quantum computer, but also showcase unprecedented quantum hardware power.  

The calculations were performed on Harvard’s quantum processor of 289 qubits operating in the analog mode, with effective circuit depths up to 32. Unlike in previous examples of quantum optimization, the large system size and circuit depth used in this work made it impossible to use classical simulations to pre-optimize the control parameters. A quantum-classical hybrid algorithm had to be deployed in a closed loop, with direct, automated feedback to the quantum processor.

This combination of system size, circuit depth, and outstanding quantum control culminated in a quantum leap: problem instances were found with empirically better-than-expected performance on the quantum processor versus classical heuristics. Characterizing the difficulty of the optimization problem instances with a “hardness parameter,” the team identified cases that challenged classical computers, but that were more efficiently solved with the neutral-atom quantum processor. A super-linear quantum speed-up was found compared to a class of generic classical algorithms. QuEra’s open-source packages GenericTensorNetworks.jl (https://github.com/QuEraComputing/GenericTensorNetworks.jl) and Bloqade.jl (https://github.com/QuEraComputing/Bloqade.jl) were instrumental in discovering hard instances and understanding quantum performance.

“A deep understanding of the underlying physics of the quantum algorithm as well as the fundamental limitations of its classical counterpart allowed us to realize ways for the quantum machine to achieve a speedup,” says Madelyn Cain, Harvard graduate student and one of the lead authors. The importance of match-making between problem and quantum hardware is central to this work: “In the near future, to extract as much quantum power as possible, it is critical to identify problems that can be natively mapped to the specific quantum architecture, with little to no overhead,” said Shengtao Wang, Senior Scientist at QuEra Computing and one of the coinventors of the quantum algorithms used in this work, “and we achieved exactly that in this demonstration.”

The “maximum independent set” problem, solved by the team, is a paradigmatic hard task in computer science and has broad applications in logistics, network design, finance, and more. The identification of classically challenging problem instances with quantum-accelerated solutions paves the path for applying quantum computing to cater to real-world industrial and social needs.

“These results represent the first step towards bringing useful quantum advantage to hard optimization problems relevant to multiple industries,” added Alex Keesling CEO of QuEra Computing and co-author on the published work. “We are very happy to see quantum computing start to reach the necessary level of maturity where the hardware can inform the development of algorithms beyond what can be predicted in advance with classical compute methods. Moreover, the presence of a quantum speedup for hard problem instances is extremely encouraging. These results help us develop better algorithms and more advanced hardware to tackle some of the hardest, most relevant computational problems.”

This work was supported by DARPA, NSF, DOE, ARO, QuEra Computing Inc., and AWS


QuEra and AWS announce availability of QPU on Braket in 2022

The first generation QuEra QPU on Amazon Braket will be operated under a new paradigm, analog Hamiltonian simulation (AHS), another alternative to universal gate-based quantum computing. Instead of programming the QPU using sequences of quantum gates, in AHS qubits and their mutual interactions are used to directly emulate the behavior of a physical system of interest. This allows for a reduction in the intrinsic overhead that is introduced by the gate abstraction. In a recently published paper in the journal Science, a programmable Rydberg computer was used to realize and study an exotic quantum state of matter, called a quantum spin liquid, for the first time.

Computational core of the QuEra QPU, where the neutral atom qubits are suspended within the vacuum chamber and manipulated by lasers.

The QuEra QPU


Harvard and MIT Scientists Launch QuEra Computing Inc. to Build Quantum Computers for Today’s Impossible Problems

QuEra has raised $17 million from investors, including Rakuten, and completed the construction of a 256-qubit device

QuEra Computing Inc. emerged from stealth mode today with $17 million in funding from Rakuten, Day One Ventures, Frontiers Capital and leading tech investors Serguei Beloussov, and Paul Maritz among others. The company recently received a DARPA award, and has already generated $11 million in revenue. QuEra Computing uses ground-breaking research on neutral atoms, developed at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as the basis for a world-leading scalable, programmable quantum computer solution. The QuEra team is building the world’s most powerful quantum computers to take on computational tasks that are currently deemed impossibly hard.

Quantum Advantage

Today's computers race through spreadsheets or trajectory predictions, yet quickly get stumped on many problems of critical importance for humanity – problems involved in climate change, artificial intelligence, understanding protein structure-function in viruses like COVID-19, and more. One category of these "impossible problems” is simulations of quantum mechanical systems, which can be as impossible for present-day computers as making a Pixar movie would have been for 1920s computing tools. To date, state-of-the-art commercial quantum systems have included approximately 50 useful and interacting qubits. At this scale, these instruments technically can provide a quantum computational advantage over classical computers, but they cannot begin to address practically significant problems. To tackle this challenge, QuEra is focused on making significant advances in two key areas: increasing the number of useful qubits and enhancing their programmability. QuEra’s technology platform is uniquely suited to this task. QuEra’s neutral-atom technology is based on the patented research of its scientific co-founders, Professors Mikhail Lukin, Professor of Physics at Harvard, Markus Greiner, Professor of Physics at Harvard, and Vladan Vuletic, Professor of Physics at MIT. They are joined on the founding team by chip-scale optoelectronic control expert Professor Dirk Englund, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, Dr. Nathan Gemelke, Chief Technology Officer, and Dr. John Pena, a serial hard-tech entrepreneur. This world class team brings technical and commercial expertise to deliver a scalable quantum computing capability to the world.

The QuEra Approach

The company’s hardware uses arrays of neutral atoms where hundreds of atoms are cooled and then arranged by laser fields in a small vacuum chamber. While the chamber’s glass walls are at room temperature, just millimeters away the atoms are laser-cooled to a virtual standstill, reaching one millionth of a degree Kelvin above absolute zero. That is over a million times colder than deep space and over a thousand times colder than the superconducting qubits by other industry participants like IBM and Google. Unlike quantum computers based on trapped ions, which repel in close-packed quarters, QuEra’s system can arrange hundreds of neutral atoms into sub-millimeter arrays. By way of comparison to classical computing, this density is similar to the transistor density on a late 1990s Intel CPU. However, instead of connecting transistors by wires, QuEra connects its neutral-atom qubits by “Rydberg blockade.” In Rydberg blockade, laser flashes drive electrons in selected atoms to an outer orbital which causes the parent atoms to briefly “puff up” – but only on the condition that it is not blocked by another puffed up atom. This blockade forms QuEra's conditional logic gate and can happen in as short of a time period as a few nanoseconds, once again similar to a 1990s Intel CPU. However, unlike a conventional CPU, the computational power of a quantum computer is exponential in the number of qubits. QuEra has completed the construction of their first 256-qubit device which will be soon accessible to customers. This device holds the promise to prove useful today – not years from now – by targeting applications in quantum optimization and quantum simulation. This is QuEra’s first step towards addressing today’s “impossible problems” in materials, finance, chemistry, logistics, pharmaceuticals and more. “There is an enormous opportunity to make headway on some of today’s most critical –and presently impossible – problems that impact nearly every one of us,” said Alex Keesling, CEO of QuEra and co-inventor of QuEra’s technology. “With our first machine, we are excited to begin to demonstrate what quantum computers can do for humanity.” “QuEra’s proprietary technology combined with its team of pioneers in quantum computing is unmatched,” said Takuya Kitagawa, Chief Data Officer at Rakuten, who led Rakuten’s investment in QuEra. “QuEra will accelerate the quantum computing industry’s trajectory, making it a technology not of the future, but of today.” The QuEra team is taking a stepwise approach where it will continue to boost the technology’s power while closing in on "universal quantum computers" with thousands of logical qubits.

About QuEra

QuEra Computing Inc. was established to build the world’s most powerful quantum computers to compute answers to currently impossible problems. QuEra’s neutral-atom technology is based on the patented research from Harvard and MIT, using highly scalable, programmable neutral atom arrays as an industry leading computational platform.  QuEra aims to tackle critical but classically intractable problems for commercial applications in optimization, simulation, materials science, pharmaceuticals, finance and machine learning. The Boston-based company has raised $17 million in funding from investors, including Rakuten, received a DARPA award, and generated $11 million in revenue.

About Rakuten

Rakuten Group, Inc. (TSE: 4755) is a global leader in internet services that empower individuals, communities, businesses and society. Founded in Tokyo in 1997 as an online marketplace, Rakuten has expanded to offer services in e-commerce, fintech, digital content and communications to approximately 1.5 billion members around the world. The Rakuten Group has over 25,000 employees, and operations in 30 countries and regions. For more information visit https://global.rakuten.com/corp/.


QuEra and AWS announce availability of QPU on Braket in 2022