The first commercial quantum computer that uses trapped ions for quantum bits (qubits) has been launched by the US-based start-up IonQ. The device is unlike other commercial systems, which use qubits made from superconducting circuits. The company is now working with a small number of users to improve the technology.

Over the past few years, quantum computing has gone from an enticing promise of vastly superior computing power to real devices that can do increasingly useful calculations. A modest number of commercial quantum computers have already been made by small companies such as Rigetti as well as tech giants such as IBM. What these systems all have in common are qubits made from superconducting circuits.

But now University of Maryland spin-out IonQ is bucking this trend by using trapped-ion technology developed by Maryland physicist Christopher Monroe, who is the company’s cofounder and chief executive.

The IonQ device stores information on 160 ion qubits and uses 79 of them for processing. It was announced on 11 December at the “Quantum for Business” conference in Mountain View, California. The company claims that “IonQ’s systems are the first in the market that store information on individual atoms. They are more accurate and can perform more complex calculations than any quantum computer built to date.”

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