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Colorado leads the world in quantum tech. Now its potential is growing.

"If we want to live in the Jetsons Age, we've got to get this right," says regional innovation officer with Elevate Quantum
Quantum computer
Posted at 10:08 AM, Jul 09, 2024

BROOMFIELD, Colo. — In an unassuming brick building in northern Colorado’s City of Broomfield, a new technology is harnessing the power of the very smallest particles and waves to solve our biggest problems.

On small golden chips, tiny particles known as “quantum bits” or “qubits” are trapped above the surface. Lasers and voltages move those qubits around, powering the computer of the future.

What will it mean?

“Faster discovery,” said Dr. Jenni Strabley who works with Quantinuum, the world’s biggest integrated quantum computing company.

Quantum chip
Quantinuum relies on tiny chips like this to power its advanced computers.

Colorado already leads the world when it comes to quantum technology. Now, new investments in the Mountain West’s quantum tech hub are expanding its potential to transform everything from our health to our national security.

"If we want to live in the Jetsons Age, we’ve got to get this right,” said Zachary Yerushalmi, chief executive and regional innovation officer for Elevate Quantum.

"The quantum community in Colorado has a gravity around it really unlike anywhere else on the planet," Yerushalmi said. "We have more organizations, more jobs, more Nobel Prizes than any other."

But to take these innovations to the next level, Yerushalmi said collaboration is key.

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Local

Quantum computer technology growing in Colorado

Amy Wadas
5:26 AM, Oct 12, 2022

Elevate Quantum is the largest regional consortium of researchers and companies working together on quantum technology in the United States. And it’s set to keep growing. The Biden Administration recognized Elevate Quantum as a designated Tech Hub late last year, and the federal government will soon invest $40.5 million in funding through the Economic Development Administration.

On top of that, Colorado is investing $74 million in state support, including $44 million in refundable tax credits to help pay for a shared quantum research facility and $30 million to help smaller Colorado quantum companies access capital through a loan loss reserve.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis expects these investments in quantum technology to create more than 10,000 jobs and $1 billion in economic impact statewide.

quantum computer
Behind these wires and black curtains, quantum computers work to answer scientific questions with the potential to change our lives.

But what does quantum tech mean for the average person?

“Quantum has been shaping our lives for a while, on an everyday basis,” Yerushalmi said.

The atomic clock makes our internet connection and GPS systems possible.

With emerging quantum tech, “literally any scientific promise that people think of” is within reach, he said.

Quantum has the potential to help us cure diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s, to create batteries that last an incredibly long time without needing to charge, to take artificial intelligence to the next level and even to upend our cybersecurity abilities.

"Us having these capabilities first is fundamental to national security,” Yerushalmi said.

“The job is to stay on top,” he said, by staying together.

“Looking at history, that's how it's been done. Whether it be the Manhattan Project, whether it be the Apollo Project. It was seen as, ‘Look, guys, we just got to make it happen.’ So that's what we're doing,” Yerushalmi said.

Jenni Strabley
Dr. Jenni Strabley and the Quantinuum team are working to keep improving their quantum computers to solve bigger and bigger problems.

Quantinuum is one of the companies joining this collaboration.

“This is a difficult technology to develop,” said Quantinuum’s Dr. Strabley.

Quantum computers are expensive to fabricate and take skilled workers to operate, which is why the new investments will focus on making tech many researchers can share and training Coloradans who can fill these jobs.

Dr. Strabley said Quantinuum already shares its quantum computers’ capabilities by solving complex problems for clients.

You can think of scientific questions as a maze. A classic computer operates a lot like us — it will look at the maze and take one path, then another, trying out every possible path until it solves the problem. But a quantum computer is so powerful, it can basically solve the whole maze all at once.

As the technology advances, Dr. Strabley said it will become faster and less energy-intensive to solve problems, including ones a classic computer can’t handle at all.

She said almost all discoveries start with simulations or models. Since quantum computing will eventually be able to model things very quickly, new discoveries will come faster and faster.

“Maybe it's chemistry, maybe it's machine learning, maybe it's AI,” she said.

Dr. Brian Neyenhuis
Dr. Brian Neyenhuis and a team of scientists, engineers and technicians ensure the quantum computers are operating properly from this control room in Broomfield.

Dr. Brian Neyenhuis, another scientist at Quantinuum leading the team that operates their commercial quantum computers, said “day to day, there's a lot of things going on here in Colorado.”

In the control room, an array of screens help Dr. Neyenhuis and his team constantly monitor how their quantum computers are doing, so they can regulate everything from the temperature in the room to the lasers shining on the chips to manipulate the “qubits.”

For now, the computers fill a large room next door. The quantum chips are placed at the center of tables, surrounded by wires and hidden behind thick black curtains meant to protect scientists’ eyes from blinding laser beams. Someday, the technology might shrink down in size and grow in capability — a lot like the computers we now hold in the palm of our hands.

"I've been dreaming about this stuff since I took my first physics classes in college, to be able to just take an individual atom and manipulate it. It's such a clean system,” Dr. Neyenhuis said. “That's quite beautiful.”

Colorado leads the world in quantum tech. Now its potential is growing.




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