The Enchilada Trap, manufactured in Sandia National Laboratories’ Microsystems Engineering, Science and Applications fabrication facility. (Image: Craig Fritz)


Dubbed the Enchilada Trap, a new ion trap — a central component for certain quantum computers — enables scientists to build more powerful machines to advance the experimental-but-potentially-revolutionary field of quantum computing.


An ion trap is a type of microchip that holds electrically charged atoms, or ions. With more trapped ions, or qubits, a quantum computer can run more complex algorithms. With sufficient control hardware, the Enchilada Trap could store and transport up to 200 qubits using a network of five trapping zones inspired by its predecessor, the Roadrunner Trap. Both versions are produced at Sandia’s Microsystems Engineering, Science and Applications fabrication facility. According to Daniel Stick, a Sandia Scientist and leading researcher with the Quantum Systems Accelerator, a quantum computer with up to 200 qubits and current error rates will not outperform a conventional computer for solving useful problems. However, it will enable researchers to test an architecture with many qubits that in the future will support more sophisticated quantum algorithms for physics, chemistry, data science, materials science, and other areas. “We are providing the field of quantum computing room to grow and explore larger machines and more complicated programming,” Stick said.


Sandia National Labs, Albuquerque, NM


As quantum computing continues to gain interest, with devices capable of supporting 200 trapped ion qubits, bigger and better quantum computers are possible in future.


In addition to traps operated at Sandia, several traps will be used at Duke University for performing quantum algorithms. Duke and Sandia are research partners through the Quantum Systems Accelerator, one of five U.S. National Quantum Information Science Research Centers funded by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

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