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Israeli startup aims to be the Mellanox of quantum

Entangled Networks hopes to emulate the $7 billion Mellanox exit with a similar solution to create quantum supercomputers

An illustrative photo of IBM’s Quantum System One, the world’s first integrated quantum computer system. (IBM)
An illustrative photo of IBM’s Quantum System One, the world’s first integrated quantum computer system. (IBM)

In 2020, Israeli computing company Mellanox hit the headlines when it was bought for $7 billion by US computing giant Nvidia. Mellanox enables the construction of supercomputers by linking many powerful computers together.

Aharon Brodutch, CEO and cofounder of Canadian-Israeli startup Entangled Networks, is hoping that his company can emulate that success by performing a similar task for quantum computers – widely regarded as the ultra-supercomputers of tomorrow.

The promise of quantum computing – based on the behavior of subatomic particles – is huge, but so far they have been unable to deliver in any practical sense. In theory, a quantum computer could reduce the time for complex calculations from years to “seconds,” according to Google CEO Sundar Pichai. But the large quantum machines that could solve complicated problems, develop new materials and transmit hacker-proof data, are too fragile to build. They require very cold temperatures and an isolated, noiseless environment to function.

“Each component you add starts making noise, interfering with other components,” Brodutch says. “It’s incredibly hard to grow and grow and keep the noise down. This is what is basically preventing quantum computers from becoming huge in the very near future.”

In quantum computing, information is encoded in qubits, the quantum equivalent of the bits in classical computing that have a value of either zero or one. With today’s technology, if more than a few dozen qubits are included in the core of a quantum computer, the resulting noise and vibrations prevent the machine from performing any serious computation.

“These computers have insane computational power. But there is a catch: They need millions of qubits to solve these problems, and currently the state of the art systems have less than 100 qubits. How do you take these fancy science toy projects and scale them up to the point that they can solve problems that are basically unimaginable for classical computers?” says Brodutch. “You have to go above being a science toy, and this is the solution we are providing.”

Entangled Networks is developing hardware and software to connect together multiple quantum computers in order to maximize their potential. The company is developing interconnects – hardware that connects together many smaller quantum computers – eventually enabling thousands or millions of qubits to work together without creating the noise that would disrupt them if they were all part of the same device.

“It will create the holy grail of the industry,” says Eli Nir, general partner and head of investments at the Jerusalem-based equity investment platform OurCrowd, which is backing the company. “The biggest challenge in quantum computing today is the need to scale up. Entangled may be the only viable approach to solving this.”

IBM and other leaders in quantum computing expect to be able to create computers with up to 1,000 qubits by 2024, but the millions of qubits needed to maximize the potential of quantum remain out of reach.

Dilution refrigerator used for cooling Intel’s quantum systems to create the ideal environment for optimal qubit performance. (Intel Corporation)

“Going beyond a thousand qubits to a million will require a new, bolder vision of integration that hasn’t yet been outlined in a scalable way,” says Nadav Katz, a physicist specializing in quantum information at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “There are some very exciting ideas about how to do this, but this is the next scientific leap that needs to happen.”

Brodutch says Entangled Networks has the answer.

“A single core solution will simply never scale up to the point where you can have the kind of computer that can solve unimaginable problems,” he says. Entangled’s approach will advance quantum computers “generations in terms of the computational power,” and will likely be available within a few years, long before the development of larger computing cores, he says.

Brodutch and Nir say the comparison to Mellanox, the third-largest tech exit in Israel’s history, is valid.

“The same solution will exist in quantum,” Brodutch says. “But it’s a completely different task in terms of the hardware.”

Based on the principles of quantum mechanics first outlined by Einstein and his peers, quantum computers use particles like photons, electrons and atoms to encode information, offering significant speed and security advantages over classical computers. Instead of encoding information in binary digits, or sets of zeros and ones, known as bits, each quantum bit or quibit can be not only a zero or one, but also suspended coherently anywhere between these two states, vastly increasing computing power and memory by simultaneously processing an exponentially number of possible states.

Members of the IBM Quantum team at work investigating how to control increasingly large systems of qubits for long enough, and with few enough errors, to run the complex calculations required by future quantum applications. (Connie Zhou for IBM)

Quantum-based networks could also offer major security advantages because information would travel in photons of light that may be physically far from one another, yet connected together by a concept called entanglement. If a hacker tried to access these particles, the entanglement would be harmed and the information would become scrambled, allowing for the detection and prevention of eavesdropping.

Although most quantum computers are still confined to labs, the market is growing more than 30 percent each year, and is expected to reach $1.7 billion by 2026, according to MarketsandMarkets. Quantum computing is set to transform many sectors, starting with chemical and pharmaceutical research, and “anything that requires deep chemistry simulations at the atomic level,” Brodutch says.

“If you are trying to develop a new drug, or a new battery, or a new fertilizer, or a new material then what you do today is you go to the lab and you start doing experiments, but that is very expensive and very time-consuming,” he explains. “What you would want to do is to run a simulation on your computer. But a classical computer simply cannot handle this challenge – not even a super computer.”

But a quantum computer could.

“You just run simulations on your quantum computer until you find the solution, the right molecule,” he says.

The US Department of Energy, along with 50 partner organizations, is building a nationwide quantum-based internet with a more secure mechanism for financial transactions and other sensitive data, eliminating the need for encryption. Google Inc., which was the first in the world to demonstrate the advantage of quantum computers over regular computers, has launched a quantum computing division, as have IBM, Intel and Microsoft. Scientists in China have used quantum computers to perform calculations that would be impossible for traditional computers.

“Quantum computing is making steady and remarkable progress,” Katz says. “However, it is important to understand the magnitude of the scientific and engineering challenge involved. It is extraordinarily hard and will require years of continued effort to push this ahead.”

Quantum computing could contribute to the fields of artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, financial modelling, logistics optimization and many others, Katz says.

For more information on Entangled Networks and investing through OurCrowd, click HERE

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