Maybell Quantum, a Denver-based startup that plans to build hardware for the budding quantum computing ecosystem, comes out of hiding today and launches Icebox. As the name suggests, Icebox is a cryogenic platform for cooling quantum processors down to the very low temperatures needed to run a stable quantum system. Traditionally, these have been extremely large systems, but Maybell says its Icebox is capable of supporting three times as many qubits in one-tenth the space of currently used configurations.
“You always see this image of the beautiful golden chandelier. It’s a striking image, but what you don’t see is what’s associated with that golden chandelier: between two and three hundred square feet of tubing and wire , pumps and compressors, liquid nitrogen dewars, non-contact cooling water and all those other things you need to get down the bottom of that golden luster at millikelvin temps,” he said. Maybell founder and CEO Corban Tillemann-Dick.
In part, it’s able to do this because its refrigerator features 4,500 superconducting “Flexlines,” as the company calls its quantum wires, which transmit far less heat and vibration (the sworn enemies of stable quantum systems) compared to the traditional wiring. Tillemann-Dick noted that while the Icebox is entirely dedicated to refrigeration, wiring is an essential part of that solution. “People work hard to vibrationally isolate their qubits and they will place them on floating foundations,” he explained. “They put them in separate rooms and they have all these copper braids and stuff. But the semi-rigid coaxial cables you use to communicate with your qubits are like sticks. You hold them at one end and they come straight out. This transmits the majority of vibrations that qubits see in a large system.
Because of this innovation in wiring, the Icebox is smaller but can also hold 4,500 of these superconducting wires needed to control a quantum processor.
Tillemann-Dick, who previously led the Boston Consulting Group’s quantum practice, also noted that the team was able to design the unit from scratch and in doing so was able to bring a design philosophy centered on human to a company that traditionally has never focused on making its machines easy to use. That means the fridge has a door to access the system, for example – and for those times when you need to do a full wiring swap, for example, the cooler basically includes a built-in mini forklift that gives you access to everything. There’s even a small desk that folds out of the rack to help users get their work done.
It’s not the benching around Cray’s early supercomputers, but it’s certainly the focus on user experience that current quantum computer cooling systems lack.
“I realized this was a company that should exist when doing strategy work for quantum players at [Boston Consulting Group] and I said, ‘listen, I’m not going to tell the difference to any of the cubit players. Plus they felt like a lottery ticket to me. But when it comes to improving the supply chain and applying human-centered design to problems, which I have a ton of experience with,” Tillemann-Dick said when I asked him asked how he was able to focus on this specific niche in the quantum ecosystem. In collaboration with Dr. Kyle Thompson, Maybell’s
CTO and co-founder who brought extensive hands-on experience with cryogenic systems to the company, the team began work on its cooling solution and raised seed funding.
Maybell says it has already received contracts from “DARPA, NSIC/DIU and leading research universities”, who certainly appreciate that the Icebox is essentially a standard two-rack system instead of a scale machine. of the room.
“Labs like mine, at the forefront of quantum research, have a critical need for high-quality, small-footprint cryogenic systems. That’s what Maybell builds. This allows us to do more research faster and accelerate our contributions to quantum science,” said Professor Javad Shabani of NYU’s Shabani Laboratory for Quantum Materials and Devices.
The quantum computing space is rapidly changing these days. We’re now in what seems like a transition period where a handful of well-funded big players like D-Wave, IBM, Rigetti and IonQ are trying to control the stack as much as possible towards something more like the modern classic. computing with many highly specialized players who provide all the components that system integrators can then assemble according to their needs and those of their users. This is going to play out at all levels of the ecosystem, from control hardware and software to quantum processing units themselves and fundamental technologies like, in this case, sub-Kelvin refrigeration.