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Robert Bosch Venture Capital invests in quantum computing startup IonQ; trapped ions

Robert Bosch Venture Capital GmbH (RBVC), the corporate venture capital company of the Bosch Group, has invested in US-based quantum computing startup IonQ as part of that company’s $55-million founding round.

The financing was led by the Samsung Catalyst Fund and Mubadala Capital, and brings IonQ’s total amount raised to $77 million. Additional investors that participated in this funding round included ACME Capital, Airbus Ventures, Hewlett Packard Pathfinder, Tao Capital Partners, Correlation Ventures and A&E Investment LLC, as well as previous investors Osage University Partners (OUP), New Enterprise Associates (NEA), GV and Amazon.

IonQ plans on making its computers commercially available via the cloud and developing next-generation systems for programming these machines.

Quantum technology has excited investors because it is particularly well-suited to solve optimization problems—from helping identify the best delivery routes for shipping companies to helping hardware designers produce more energy-efficient materials and batteries. By 2023, 20% of organizations intend to budget for quantum-computing projects, compared to less than 1% in 2018. This rapid growth reflects a growing awareness that quantum computing will transform the way enterprises do business.

Many quantum hardware developers use “synthetic” quantum systems for their quantum bits (qubits for short), such as loops of supercooled superconducting wire, intentional imperfections in crystalline silicon, or other designs carefully coaxed to behave as quantum systems. IonQ takes a different approach, and uses a naturally occurring quantum system: individual atoms.

These atoms are the heart of IonQ’s quantum processing units. The company traps them in 3D space, and then uses lasers to do everything from initial preparation to final readout.

IonQ’s qubits are ionized ytterbium atoms. The only difference between a neutral ytterbium atom (Yb) and an ytterbium ion (Yb+) is one electron, which IonQ removes with lasers as a part of the trapping process. This process—ionization—leaves the atom with a positive electrical charge and only one valence electron.

IonQ then uses a specialized chip called a linear ion trap to hold it precisely in 3D space. This small trap features around 100 tiny electrodes precisely designed, lithographed, and controlled to produce electromagnetic forces that hold the ions in place, isolated from the environment to minimize environmental noise and decoherence.

IonQ can load any number of ions into a linear chain. Theoretically, this on-demand reconfigurability allows the company to create anything from a one-qubit system to a 100+ qubit system without having to fabricate a new chip or change the underlying hardware. To date, IonQ has run single-qubit gates on a 79 ion chain, and complex algorithms on chains of up to 11 ions.

Recently, the company built the largest programmable quantum computer to date, demonstrating performance benchmarks that no other quantum computer has been able to match.

IonQ was founded in 2015 with a license to core technology from the University of Maryland and Duke University, and the goal of taking trapped ion quantum computing out of the lab and into the market. IonQ is headquartered in College Part, MD and has raised approximately $22 million in funding to date. The company currently has 39 employees and operates three own Quantum Computers.

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