Quantum Technologies - Projects 2022

En route to the European quantum internet

Paving the way for the European quantum internet — with the first German quantum node in a transnational entanglement-based network in Aachen: This is one of the objectives of the memorandum of understanding agreed at the end of 2021 for close cooperation between Fraunhofer and QuTech, a collaboration between the Technical University of Delft and the Netherlands research organization TNO. The node is intended to serve as a development and test en-vironment for network components and as a springboard for a European approach to an entanglement-based quantum internet.

Since 2019, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT and QuTech have been working together on optical components for quantum communication and information. They have developed a quantum frequency converter (QFC) architecture whose improved signal-to-noise ratio sets new standards in the transfer of quantum information. As such, the research partners have reached a major achievement for rapid connections between quantum computers at different locations, thus paving the way towards a stable quantum internet. Fraunhofer ILT and QuTech will continue to collaborate closely to establish complex QKD (quantum key distribution) networks, to set up further quantum nodes in Germany and in the Netherlands, and to develop integrated photonic solutions for such networks. 

Since 2022, the two partners have been working more closely together than ever before as part of the European Quantum Internet Alliance. This consortium, coordinated by QuTech, comprises more than forty European companies and research institutions that are seeking to establish a European quantum network to ensure that Europe plays a leading role in creating a quantum eco-system against the backdrop of the “second quantum revolution”. The advances in research should bolster Europe’s innovative strength, facilitate secure communications for companies and society, and ensure technological sovereignty. 

Fraunhofer world record: Generating quantum keys at multiple kilobytes per second on an international level

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Quantum processor with spin qubits in diamond

Der Quantenprozessor, der in »SPINNING« entwickelt wird, ist in der Lage, mit geringem Kühlbedarf zu arbeiten. Somit hat er das Potenzial, in unmittelbarer Nähe herkömmlicher Computersysteme implementiert zu werden und so skalierbare und hybride Rechnerarchitekturen zu ermöglichen.
© James Thew – stock.adobe.com | Fraunhofer IAF
The quantum processor under development in the “SPINNING” project is capa-ble of operating with low cooling requirements. As such, it has the potential to be deployed in close proximity to conventional computer systems, paving the way for scalable and hybrid computing architectures.

A consortium led by the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics IAF is developing a novel quantum processor that is “made in Germany”. The “SPINNING” (quantum computer based on spin qubits in diamond) joint research project is also focusing on the peripheral elements required to enable the quantum processor to be connected to conventional computer systems. This is to be achieved using a compact, scalable quantum processor based on spin qubits in diamond. The processor will use optically addressable color centers in a diamond substrate, which are formed by nitrogen-vacancy centers in the diamond lattice. The electron spin of a color center can function as an output qubit, when coupled with the nuclear spin of the surrounding atoms. The aim is to connect the individual qubit registers photonically. Unlike superconducting quantum computers, diamond-based qubits can maintain superpositioning over multiple milliseconds, even at room temperature. 

Compared to today’s quantum computers, the planned hardware is characterized by lower error rates, longer coherence times and thus operation times, and low cooling requirements: The latter would allow quantum computers to be deployed in close proximity to conventional computers. 

Initially, the quantum processor should be able to compute with 10 qubits, and subsequently with 100 and more, and would therefore also be able to calculate the products of complex quantum chemical reactions. The SPINNING consortium is devoting special attention to connectivity. This property refers to the number of qubits that can be addressed directly and coupled over large distances, which is a factor for the quantum volume and thus the performance of a quantum computer. 

The SPINNING project is making an important contribution to the German quantum technology ecosystem and is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) to the tune of 16.1 million euros. The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Systems and Device Technology IISB and the Forschungszentrum Jülich are among the 28 partners involved. 


Press release »Using diamond to realize a hybrid quantum processor “made in Germany"«

Bridging the gap between classic computers and quantum technology

Permanente Verbindung eines Glasfaserkabels mit einem integriert optischen Quantenbauteil
© Universität Paderborn, B. Mazhiqi
A permanent connection between a glass fiber cable and an integrated optical quantum component

A consortium led by the Stuttgart-based quantum start-up Q.ANT is developing technologies for photonic quantum computing in the project Phoquant. The novel feature in this development approach for harnessing photonic quantum computing in industry settings is that the team hopes to direct, manage and control up to 100 qubits with virtually no losses, even at room temperature. The current generation of quantum computer chips must be cooled to almost absolute zero (–273.15 degrees Celsius), which, in addition to being expensive and difficult, means that they are unsuitable for direct connections with classic computer architectures. The new photonic chip process developed by Q.ANT, a subsidiary of the machine tool manufacturer TRUMPF, is set to make it easier to combine quantum computers with conventional mainframe computers. To do this, the quantum experts have deposited highly specialized light channels on silicon wafers, so that quanta can be transmitted through photonic integrated circuits.

First, the 14 partners are constructing a test facility for photonic quantum computer chips and other quantum computer components. The Fraunhofer Institutes for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF and for Photonic Microsystems IPMS are contributing their expertise here. Fraunhofer IOF and the Friedrich Schiller University Jena are developing some of the essential components for photonic quantum computers, such as integrated optical quantum light sources and low-loss integrated optical and fiber optical interferometers. Meanwhile, Fraunhofer IPMS is developing highly adaptable integrated circuits. These FPGA and ASIC architectures with active interfaces allow for high-precision control and analysis of the photonic quantum computer chip’s functionalities. The Phoquant consortium is aiming to present its first prototype by the end of 2024. The goal is to develop a quantum computer chip that can perform a wide range of calculations for industry applications within five years. One of the first use cases the technology will be applied to is real-time scheduling optimization at airports in the event of unforeseen delays. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is providing €42 million in funding for the Phoquant project, with the consortium partners contributing a further €8 million.

Press release »Research funding for photonic quantum chips«

Press release »Photonic quantum computer made in Germany«

Pilot lines and test labs for the EU quantum industry

Photonischer integrierter Schaltkreis für die Quantenkommunikation auf einer PolyBoard-Plattform
© Fraunhofer HHI
Photonic integrated circuit for quantum communication on a PolyBoard platform

The first phase of the EU’s Quantum Flagship project ended in 2022 with numerous successes under its belt, including a prototype for the first scalable trapped-ion quantum computer. This computer, which uses ions as qubit information carriers, was developed at the University of Innsbruck with the assistance of Fraunhofer. Beginning in 2023, the next phase of the EU Quantum Flagship program will be focusing on developing quantum technologies to the point of market readiness and bringing them into application within European industries. These steps are essential for maintaining Europe’s technological sovereignty in a highly competitive international economic sector.

The consortia QU-Pilot and QU-Test are jointly organizing the construction of pilot lines for manufacturing quantum components. In addition, they will also give the European quantum industry access to open testing and application labs for experimentation and development procedures. This will allow the companies to test their manufacturing capacities and research and development services for their respective application fields.

QU-Pilot is set to develop the first pre-competitive production processes for quantum technologies and make them accessible to the European industry. In the process, the consortium partners are building on and combining existing European infrastructures. The different pilot lines are tailored to the relevant quantum platforms: superconductors, semiconductors, nitrogen vacancy centers in diamonds, and photonics. Four Fraunhofer institutes are granting access to their manufacturing capacities for this initiative. The QU-Test consortium is building connections between various European testing and application laboratories for quantum technologies. In this consortium, infrastructures distributed across Europe are coming together to combine their unique, globally unrivaled facilities and expertise. Their goal is to support the European quantum industry with the infrastructure and know-how needed to develop and characterize prototypes and products and enable companies to reach market launch more quickly. QU-Test is focused on the following application fields: quantum computers, quantum communication and quantum sensor technology. This consortium will also reap the benefits of the expertise of numerous Fraunhofer institutes.


Press release »The Quantum Future Begins in Prague«

Field of Research Quantum Technologies at Fraunhofer HHI