In search of space applications for quantum computers

COLORADO SPRINGS — Quantum Brilliance, an Australian and German quantum computing startup, is eager to identify space applications for its technology.

“I’m here because I’m very keen to talk to many potential customers about feasibility studies,” said Mark Mattingley-Scott, Quantum Brilliance’s general manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa. SpaceNews at the Space Symposium. “We really want to get into space as soon as possible.”

Last year, Quantum Brilliance delivered its first quantum computer to the government-funded Pawsey Supercomputing Center in Western Australia. While this initial product is about half a meter wide and fits in a standard server rack, the company is working on smaller models.

“We plan to scale this down to a lunchbox size that consumes a few hundred watts in the next few years,” said Mattingley-Scott, who spent nearly 32 years at IBM before joining Quantum Brilliance last year. “It’s a very interesting payload to put on a satellite in space.”

Most quantum computing technologies require extremely cold temperatures. Quantum Brilliance works with synthetic diamonds to create quantum computers that operate at room temperature.

Quantum computing technology is changing rapidly, but most quantum computers remain extremely large.

Quantum Brilliance is working to develop quantum computers that can outperform conventional microprocessors, like GPUs, for the same size, weight, and power.

“We were fairly certain that we could achieve quantum utility against the GPU within the next three years,” Mattingley-Scott said. “These are the kind of timescales where, for space, you have to start doing things now.”

In general, quantum computers are good at solving extremely complex and multi-faceted problems.

For example, quantum computers could provide “much more precision but also more speed in optimizing machine learning problems, pattern recognition and labeling,” Mattingley-Scott said.

Yet it is impossible to imagine all of the potential applications of quantum computing today, just as it was impossible to plan future applications of early integrated circuits.

Quantum Brilliance, founded in Australia in 2019, created a German subsidiary last year.

The company’s German subsidiary is working with the University of Ulm on a 15.6 million euro ($17.1 million) research project, funded by the German government and led by the Fraunhofer Institute for applied solid state physics. The three-year project, announced in January, focuses on scalable quantum microprocessor technology based on synthetic diamonds.