Mabel Quantum, a Denver-based startup that plans to build hardware for the nascent quantum computing ecosystem, is coming out of stealth today to launch Icebox. As the name suggests, Icebox is a cryogenic platform for cooling quantum processors to the very low temperatures required for the stable operation of a quantum system. These are traditionally very large systems, but Mabel says Icebox can support three times the capacity, which is one-tenth the size of a setup currently in use.
“You always see this image of a beautiful golden chandelier. It’s a grim picture, but what you don’t see is connected to that golden chandelier: two hundred more square feet of pipes and wires and pumps and compressors and liquid nitrogen Dewars and non-contact chilled water and everything else that you should reach a temperature in millikelvins. this golden chandelier,” Korban Tillman-Dick, founder and CEO of Maybelle, tells me.
This is partly because the refrigerator is equipped with 4,500 superconducting “flex lines,” as the company calls its quantum wires, which produce much less heat and vibration (the archenemy of stable quantum systems) than conventional cables. K. Tillman-Dick points out that while the refrigerator is designed to refrigerate, wiring is an important part of that solution. “People are working hard to isolate their qubits from vibrations, and they will put them on a floating base,” he explained. “They put them in separate rooms and they had all these copper braids and all that. But there is also a semi-rigid coaxial cable that you use to communicate with your qubits – they are like sticks. You hold them by one end and they stick straight. It sends out most of the vibrations that can be seen in the larger system.”
This cabling innovation makes the refrigerator smaller, but also allows for the 4,500 of those superconducting wires needed to power the quantum processor.
Tillman-Dick, who previously led the Boston Consulting Group’s quantum practice, also noted that the team was able to design the device from scratch and was able to bring a people-centric design philosophy to the company. Traditionally not focused on making their machines user-friendly. This means, for example, that the refrigerator has a door to access the system, and in cases where you need to swap wiring, for example, the Icebox has a built-in mini forklift that gives you access to everything. There is also a small table that slides out of the rack to help users do their work.
It is not related to the early Cray supercomputers, but certainly focuses on the user experience that current quantum computer cooling systems lack.
“I realized that this company must exist if it is doing strategic work for quantum players. [Boston Consulting Group] And I said, “Look, I won’t matter to any player. Plus, they made me feel like a lottery ticket. But I have a lot of experience when it comes to improving supply chains and applying human-centered design to problems,” Tillman-Dick said when I asked him how he could position this special place in the quantum ecosystem. Doctor. Kyle Thompson Mabel
After a CTO and co-founder who brought extensive experience with cryogenic systems to the company, the team began working on their refrigeration solution and raised seed capital.
Mabel says she’s already received contracts from “DARPA, NSIC/DIU, and major research universities” and they all certainly appreciate that the Icebox was basically a standard, not a camera-based, dual rack system.
“Laboratories like mine, which are at the forefront of quantum research, are in dire need of high-quality cryogenic systems that take up little space. This is what Mabel builds. This allows us to conduct research faster and faster. to accelerate our contribution to quantum science,” said Professor Javad Shabani of New York University’s Shabani Quantum Materials and Devices Laboratory.
The quantum computing space is rapidly evolving these days. We now seem to be in a transition period where some of the big well-funded players like D-Wave, IBM, Rigetti and IONQ want to control as much of the stack as possible for something more like the modern classical computing landscape with a few highly developed computers. specialized players. All of them provide components that system integrators can assemble according to their needs and the needs of users. This happens at every level of the ecosystem, from control hardware and software to quantum processors and fundamental technologies such as, in this case, sub-Kelvin refrigeration.