On its way to 5mK

This is a picture of the Orion chip’s sample holder attached to one of our dilution fridges, ready to begin a cooldown.

The base temperature at which we operate (5mK, or 0.005 degrees above absolute zero) is about 500 times colder than interstellar space. In other words the difference between interstellar space and the base temperature of our fridges is about 5 times greater than the difference between room temperature (about 300K) and interstellar space (about 2.7K).


This is a Leiden Cryogenics dilution fridge. These are beautiful, dependable machines that come highly recommended. We have three of these operational and haven’t had any problems with them in over 2 years of operation.

Quantum Computing Demo Announcement

We have fixed the dates for the demo of our Orion quantum computing system. We are going to hold two events, one at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California on February 13th, and the second at the Telus World of Science in Vancouver, Canada on February 15th.

These events are open to the public, but registration is required as we’re expecting full houses at both events. Registration will open shortly and can be done via our website here.

The Orion system is a hardware accelerator designed to solve a particular NP-complete problem called the two dimensional Ising model in a magnetic field. It is built around a 16-qubit superconducting adiabatic quantum computer processor. The system is designed to be used in concert with a conventional front end for any application that requires the solution of an NP-complete problem.

Here is an optical picture of the processor we’ll be using for the demo. This particular circuit contains 16 qubits (the quasi-circular loops arranged in a 4×4 array). Each of the qubits is coupled to its nearest neighbors (N, S, E, W) and next-nearest neighbors (NW, NE, SW, SE) via a tunable flux transformer, giving a total of 42 of these couplers.


Using an Orion system is extremely simple. I’m going to post more about this later, but qualitatively the way it works is that when your software application needs to solve an NP-complete problem, it passes the problem to the Orion system instead of whatever solver you’d be otherwise using. Nothing changes about how your app is architected.

At the demo, what we’re going to do is run two different applications, live, on an Orion system residing in Burnaby, BC. Orion is designed such that it can be used remotely, and this is the mode we’ll be using for the demos.

The first application is a pattern matching application applied to searching databases of molecules. This is an app that we developed internally at D-Wave. This is an example of how to apply Orion to problems arising from association (or conflict) graphs.

The second is a third-party planning/scheduling application for assigning people to seats subject to constraints. Anyone who has tried to plan seating arrangements for a wedding should be familiar with this one. This is an example of applying Orion to constraint satisfaction problems.

One very cool thing that we’re planning to do in Q2/2007 is to provide free access to one of these systems to people who want to either develop or port applications to it…so if you have an idea for an app that needs a fast NP-complete problem solver, start thinking about what you could do with some serious horsepower.