PascalToday, a Paris-based quantum computing startup announced that it has raised $100 million in a Series B funding round authorized by Singapore. temasek. In addition to Temasek, existing investors Quantonation, the Defense Innovation Fund, Daphne and EniNext, as well as the European Innovation Council (EIC) new investor fund, Wa’ed Ventures and Bpifrance (through the Large Enterprise Fund) also participated in the round. .
What makes Pascal, which was founded in early 2019, stand out in an increasingly crowded field of quantum computing startups is that the company is betting on quantum computing of neutral atoms. This is a relatively new and potentially game-changing approach to building quantum processors. Instead of trapped ions (like IonQ) or superconducting quantum computers (like IBM), neutral quantum atom processors use lasers to hold atoms in place using what are essentially light tweezers.
As you can imagine, building the technology to contain one atom—and only one atom—in this trap created its own challenges, but that’s a problem that’s mostly been solved now. The advantage here is that once you can do this with hundreds of atoms at the same time, you can create a very dense array of qubits and one that you can, using 3D methods, rearrange in 3D space as needed for a particular algorithm. And all this happens at room temperature. This brings these machines closer to field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) than to traditional quantum processors. You can find Pascal’s paper on this process in more detail here It is also worth noting that Alain Aspect, who won the Nobel Prize for his work on quantum entanglement in 2022, is one of the founders of Pascal.
As Pascal co-founder and CEO Georges-Olivier Raymond told me, the company has already proven that it can control more than 300 atoms at a time. “It’s very difficult to have just one atom in a laser beam and to monitor and control it,” he explained. “But once you achieve that, you can almost easily scale that up and you can create arrays in any shape you want.” He noted that qubits are similar to ion-based qubits in terms of their coherence time and precision, yet it is this flexibility and ability to pack these atoms into a very dense matrix, with only a few microns between qubits, that can give the technique. Feature.
With some of these core capabilities now in place, Raymond noted, the team is working on building a quantum control system so it can start implementing quantum algorithms. He noted that while there are startups focused on building quantum controllers, none are optimized for neutral atoms, so the company decided to build its own system.
The Pasqal team is clearly quite optimistic about its system and Reymond believes the team will be able to show its potential clients a “quantum business advantage” in 2024. He believes this will take a system of 200 to 300 qubits.
At this point, most researchers believe we won’t see the industry trend toward a single technology for solving every algorithm. Instead, different quantum technologies will find their sweet spots to solve different problems. As for Pasqal, the team believes its system will work particularly well with graph-centric problems. “There are a lot of computational challenges that you can reframe in the form of a graph,” he explained. “What we can do with atoms, is we can represent the shape of that graph and embed algorithm complexity into that geometry. Ultimately, instead of using thousands of quantum gates, by just implementing a couple of them, you can run your algorithm and then be resilient to errors.” .”
The company is currently working with the likes of Crédit Agricole CIB, BASF, BMW, Siemens, Airbus, Johnson & Johnson and Thales to help them understand where its technology can meet their business needs.
“We are very proud of this new milestone in the development of PASQAL that will make the company a world leader,” said Kristof Gorczak, Managing Partner at Quantonation. Quantonation has supported the company since its split from the Institut d’Optique. It is the first expansion within the Quantonation portfolio, and it really demonstrates the excellence of French research and the competitiveness of the French quantum ecosystem. “