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AWS discusses its new quantum error correction chip

By Dan O'Shea posted 01 Dec 2023

Amazon Web Services’ impact on the quantum computing sector has been most visible through its Amazon Braket quantum computing-as-a-service platform, which offers user access to quantum processors from several different companies. Beyond that, however, the company has been engaged in a lot of research aimed at helping to advance quantum computing toward its broader commercial breakthrough.

It often has chosen not to publicly tout many of its research advances–or at least not very loudly–but at the company’s recent re:Invent conference, AWS EC2 General Manager Peter Desantis, pulled back the curtain on a significant innovation achieved at the AWS Center for Quantum Computing at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). He said AWS has developed its own quantum error correction chip that has demonstrated more efficient quantum error correction than other current approaches.

Specifically, Desantis said:

“It’s a custom-designed chip that’s totally fabricated in house by our AWS teams, and the unique thing about this chip is how it approaches error correction by separating the bit flips errors from the phase flips. With this prototype device, we’ve been able to suppress bit flip errors by 100x by using a passive error correction approach. This allows us to focus our active error correction efforts on just those phase flips, and by combining both of these approaches [passive and active], we’ve shown that we can theoretically achieve quantum error correction six times more efficiently than with standard error correction approaches. Now, while we should be mindful that we’re still early in the days in this journey to an error-corrected quantum computer, this step is an important part of developing the hardware-efficient and scalable quantum error correction that we will need to solve interesting problems on a quantum computer.”

Desantis did not go into much more detail about the nature of the experiments conducted with the new chip or the other aspects of the results, but he suggested AWS would have some future announcements following up on all of this.

In any case, it does not sound like AWS plans to sell quantum error correction chips to the broader market. In an email exchange with IQT after the announcement, Oskar Painter, director of quantum hardware at AWS, made clear the chip DeSantis talked about is a “research prototype,” but it does sound like it will be a key component of AWS’ ongoing efforts to build its superconducting quantum computer, a project the company publicly disclosed back in 2021.

“It will not be mass produced,” Painter said. “However, the AWS Center for Quantum Computing is hard at work building a superconducting quantum computer. While we can’t speak to future offerings, customers can use Amazon Braket today to explore and experiment with quantum hardware from IonQ, Oxford Quantum Circuits (OQC), QuEra, and Rigetti.”

Image caption: AWS EC2 General Manager Peter Desantis on stage at his company’s re:Invent conference, talking about AWS’ latest achievement in quantum error correction. (Screen capture by Dan O’Shea)

Dan O’Shea has covered telecommunications and related topics including semiconductors, sensors, retail systems, digital payments and quantum computing/technology for over 25 years.

Categories: quantum computing

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