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Israel joins exclusive quantum computer club

“There’s no reason we shouldn’t be front-runners in the quantum computing race” said the project leader


An ion trap inside a vacuum chamber – part of the new quantum computer. Photo: Freddy Pizanti, The Weizmann Institute of Science
An ion trap inside a vacuum chamber – part of the new quantum computer. Photo: Freddy Pizanti, The Weizmann Institute of Science

Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science announced on Tuesday it has successfully built the country’s first quantum computer – one of about 30 such machines in the world, and one of under 10 to rely on an advanced technology known as ion traps.


The computer was built by a team led by Professor Roee Ozeri, from the Department of Physics of Complex Systems. And the team will not stop there – it is already working on an even larger computer.


The Weizmann Institute of Science is, in fact, home to one of the world’s very first computers, WEIZAC, built in the 1950 “when all Israel had was swamps and camels,” says Ozeri.


“Today Israel is a technological empire, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be front-runners in the quantum computing race.”


Quantum computers promise to reach computational complexity known as the “quantum advantage”, which is unthinkable even when using the most powerful classical computers. Relying on a different set of laws – those of quantum mechanics – this new computing system should bring about numerous applications, from unbreakable codes to predicting market fluctuations and accelerating the development of drugs, materials, AI systems and much, much more.


The Institute explains that in our familiar world – any body or unit of information (bit) can only be in one place at one time. In contrast, quantum bits (qubits) can be simultaneously present in more than one position or state, which enables them to conduct multiple calculations in parallel, opening the door to vast computing power.


“In the past decade, commercial companies such as Google, Amazon and IBM joined the race to build a quantum computer, while the US, China and the EU initiated massively funded strategic programs to advance the field,” says Ozeri.


The Weizmann computer is a five-qubit machine, roughly the level achieved by IBM when the company first started offering quantum computing as a cloud service. The new computer that is currently being built, which will be named WeizQC as homage to that first 1950s computer, is scheduled to work with 64 qubits.

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