Today we visited the Google Quantum Lab. The group we visited started out as a research group at UCSB lead by John Martinis. The group was hired by Google in 2014, and most of the group members became Google employees. Since then, they have been working at developing quantum computers, doing both practical and the- oretical work. Google is interested in quantum computing because (to them) it has been evident that Moore’s law has been breaking down over the years, and they want to continue this growth this has brought them. (A few months after the study tour, Martinis group published a paper in Nature where they claim to have achieved ’Quantum supremacy’ )
Within Google, there is a large division called the Google A.I. Lab, which is primarily focused on doing research related to intelligent technologies. The Google Quantum Lab is part of this lab and consists of a business group, a theoretical group based in Los Angeles and the engineering group we visited. The purpose of the lab is to im- prove quantum computing. Quantum computing can add great value to many fields, a few of which we will highlight. In cryptography, the ability to factor large numbers can make a great impact. Also, optimization problems such as the travelling sales- man problem can be solved much better. Finally, a lot of chemistry problems can be solved using such a system. The basic principle of a quantum computer is to use the physical properties of particles in a quantum state; qubits. These qubits can be in a superposition of two states and can therefore carry more data than the classic databit. At the moment researchers, are looking for possibilities to upscale these computers. For the Google Quantum Lab, this means improving on the number of qubits in their systems, and increasing the quality of the qubits (mainly relating to the duration of the computations that can be done with them).
In our visit, they showed us around their offices and their labs. In the offices, we got a small presentation about the current state of their quantum computing re- search, and an overview of their company. During the lab tour, they showed us the dilution fridges in which their quantum computers run. We got to see one of them up-close, as well as one of the chips they fabricated. Afterwards, we had lunch with some of the employees and had some very interesting discussions about the research.
During our trip we also saw some other companies working on quantum computing, one of which was IBM. Their work is quite similar, and as such it was interesting to see that they faced the same challenges. However, we also learned from the differences in their approach to solve these problems.
In the afternoon, we visited UCSB. We got a nicely customized campus tour, tai- lored to our specific physics background. As such, we made a long stop at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics. They had a very nice building, in which we walked around. It was nice to see the atmosphere in which they conduct their research, and we became quite jealous of their blackboard-filled patio with open roof, which is of course facilitated by the soft climate there. We finished off our visit by walking around the huge lagoon on the campus, and looking out over the Pacific Ocean next to it. Finally, we enjoyed a nice evening in the Santa Barbara downtown.