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PsiQuantum targets first commercial quantum computer in under six years

PsiQuantum is aiming to deliver its first commercial quantum computing system in under six years, its CEO said as the startup announced a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy to develop advanced fridges for its machines.

Chief Executive Jeremy O’Brien said the timeline has been made possible by the company’s breakthroughs, including its work with chip manufacturing partner GlobalFoundries.

“The first system that’s actually capable of solving important problems that people want to know the answer to – that’s just a handful of years away,” he said in an interview.

Asked if that meant less than six years, he replied: “Certainly less than six.”

Estimates for the development of practical quantum computing by other experts in the field typically put it at a decade or even 20 or more years away.

The deal with the U.S. Department of Energy will enable PsiQuantum to use facilities at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to design the fridges or “cryogenic quantum modules” which are necessary as quantum computers run at temperatures close to absolute zero.

“We’ve (now) got access to another several orders, a couple of orders of magnitude more cooling power through Stanford’s linear accelerator,” O’Brien said. “You’re in a night and day type of world when it comes to cooling power.”

Investors have granted the Palo Alto, California-based startup a $3.15 billion valuation and infused it with $700 million thus far.

PsiQuantum’s goal is to string together a number of quantum modules to behave like a data center. The company needs to reach roughly 1 million quantum bits, or qubits, to be of practical use, O’Brien said.

Silicon Valley giants such as IBM, Alphabet’s Google and Microsoft are also seeking to crack the technology as it could help solve complex computational problems that existing hardware has trouble with.

Because of the immense computational power in quantum computing, there is a gamut of potential applications from materials science to national security to finance.

PsiQuantum is also working on research into ways to produce cheap and abundant green hydrogen.

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