A Tour of Oxford’s Ion-trap Quantum Computing Lab – The Technology of the Future?


Maria Violaris

If you happened to be passing the foyer of the Physics Beecroft Building between 1pm and 2pm on Wednesday 20th November, you may have spotted some gatherings of students excitedly sharing their ideas about quantum computing. They were meeting for the start of a lab tour demonstrating a candidate for the future of quantum computers: ion traps. 

Dr Chris Ballance showed the three tour groups various tabletop experiments filled with carefully aligned instruments. He explained how these could accomplish amazing feats of entangling ions with some of the highest accuraciesin the world, and even showed us a live image of these ions on a screen. We had a look at the microchips which could connect ion-traps into networks, giving the technology potential for larger scale quantum computations in the future. Dr Ballance also explained how academia works with industry in this field, and why he co-founded a spin-out company, Oxford Ionics, aiming to scale up this technology. 

 The tour taught us a lot about ion-trap quantum computing and its role to play in the future of quantum technology. Our members were filled with enthusiastic questions and intrigue at the experiments. Fortunately, our panel on the 'Future of Quantum Technology' was scheduled less than a week later to satisfy their curiosity...