View all news

CQP and QECDT Staff and Researchers visit DWave

Staff and students from the Centre for Quantum Photonics and Quantum Engineering Centre for Doctoral Training visited DWave last week

17 November 2015

During the last week of October, the first year Quantum Engineering CDT (QECDT) cohort travelled to D-Wave labs and headquarters in Vancouver, Canada, to visit the start-up company claiming to have built the “the worlds first commercial quantum computer”.

The D-Wave Systems tagline reads simply “The Quantum Computing Company”; a line that has been hotly debated within the quantum research community for the last 10 years. While arguments over the computer’s “quantumness” have now largely been put to rest [1,2], contentions over the machine’s quantum speedup, real-world applications and competitiveness are still yet to be settled. However, for now at least, they have the largest case for such a claim. To separate the myth and media-hype from the facts and hard physics, Bristol’s first year of Quantum Engineers visited the Vancouver-based company to see the current state-of-the-art in commercial quantum computing.

During the week the students had the opportunity to learn about the different elements of a D-Wave machine’s production, operation and application. This included witnessing the machines in action, both on the laboratory floor and applied to solve characteristic map colouring problems [3]. Lectures were also presented on the system’s fundamental superconducting Niobium architecture as well as the challenges associated with fabricating and running a machine operating close to absolute zero (currently at 15 mK) [4]. The visit also covered topical subjects such as mapping problems to D-Wave’s architecture [5], the machine’s performance against competitor simulators [6] and how to benchmark performance [7]. The information-packed week concluded with an entrepreneurial session on how D-Wave went from a homework project to one of the world’s first successful quantum start-ups. The students were also lucky enough to receive similar talks from founders of two new quantum software companies: 1Qbit and QC Ware. Members of the nascent commercial ecosystem sprouting around D-Wave’s achievements, they provided invaluable insights into the future of quantum commercialisation as well as the demand for marketable applications of quantum computation.

The productive week has further laid foundations for continued contact and even collaboration between D-Wave and QECDT students, current and future. With the company’s steady stream of successes in both commercial and technical fields, whatever the final form of quantum computation may be, D-Wave stand in good stead to lead the field (at least for now!).

All the students thoroughly enjoyed the unique opportunity of a behind-the-scenes perspective on quantum computation research outside of academia, and would like to thank D-Wave for the visit, as well as the CDT management for its organisation.


Further information

[1] Boixo, Sergio, et al. "Experimental signature of programmable quantum annealing." Nature communications 4 (2013).

[2]Albash, Tameem, et al. "Consistency tests of classical and quantum models for a quantum annealer." Physical Review A 91.4 (2015): 042314.

[3] E. D. Dahl, D-Wave Systems “Programming with D-Wave: Map Coloring Problem” D-Wave White Paper (2013) Online at:

[4] D-Wave Systems “D-Wave 2X Technology Overview” D-Wave White Paper (2015) Online at:

[5] Trummer, Immanuel, and Christoph Koch. "Multiple Query Optimization on the D-Wave 2X Adiabatic Quantum Computer." arXiv preprint arXiv:1510.06437 (2015).

[6] King, Andrew D. "Performance of a quantum annealer on range-limited constraint satisfaction problems." arXiv preprint arXiv:1502.02098 (2015).

[7] King, James, et al. "Benchmarking a quantum annealing processor with the time-to-target metric."arXiv preprint arXiv:1508.05087 (2015).


Edit this page