Scaling up quantum ambitions with CERN

The CERN Knowledge Transfer group has recently been exploring how CERN technology or know-how can help accelerate European quantum ambitions.


CERN PHOTOWALK 2010 - Computer Centre - Veronika McQuade
CERN's Computing Centre (Image: CERN)

Quantum technologies have the potential to bring about a revolution in computing, sensing and communication. By making use of phenomena such as superposition and entanglement, quantum computers might be able to perform calculations that a classical computer would take thousands or even millions of years to complete. Recognising this potential, in 2020 CERN launched the CERN Quantum Technology Initiative (QTI) to explore the application of quantum technologies to the laboratory’s scientific research programme. Conversely, the field of quantum technologies can also benefit from the know-how and technological solutions that CERN has already developed in areas like high-precision controls, ultra-high vacuum systems, cryogenic systems design, and machine learning algorithms.  

In 2020, the CERN Knowledge Transfer (KT) group began exploring possible knowledge-transfer opportunities with companies and institutes within the European quantum community. One of these institutes is QuTech, a collaboration between TU Delft and TNO, in the Netherlands. 

The discussions so far between QuTech and CERN have centered on the potential of high-precision timing and control solutions, such as the open-hardware technology White Rabbit and CERN’s expertise in digital low level radiofrequency (LLRF) control, currently being applied for the precise tuning, stabilisation and synchronisation of RF signals in CERN’s accelerator complex. 

Our focus is to see which technologies at CERN might help to build robust quantum computing devices. Already, the White Rabbit technology has found its way to the quantum community, including QuTech, and we believe there is more CERN know-how that can help Europe in its quantum ambitions.

says Han Dols, Business Development Section Leader, in the KT group. 

A key challenge for QuTech and the wider quantum community is scalability. This becomes evident if we look at qubits, which are the quantum equivalent of the “bit” in classical computing. Today, quantum computers typically operate with tens of qubits, as opposed to the thousands or millions of qubits that would be needed to make them commercially viable on a larger scale. 

It is our ambition to develop quantum computers with a large number of interconnected qubits, which will one day solve societal problems that cannot be tackled by classical computers.

says Richard Versluis, Quantum Computing Division Engineering Lead QuTech. He adds, 

Going to thousands or millions of qubits requires better than state-of-the-art control electronics, analog and digital processing and synchronisation. While QuTech knows about the intricacies for qubit control and readout, CERN has expertise in highly complex control systems at scales much larger than our current set-ups can handle. The combination of these strengths could accelerate the development of quantum computing technology, enabling meaningful experiments at a computational power greatly surpassing that which is available today. 

The KT group welcomes discussions with organisations interested in how CERN technologies might apply to their quantum systems. Further information is available here: Or contact