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Robert Niffenegger Comments in Forbes Article

Robert Niffenegger

Robert Niffenegger

Assistant Professor Robert Niffenegger of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department was recently used as an expert source by writer Paul Smith-Goodson for an article in Forbes to comment on groundbreaking quantum architecture and a glass quantum computer chip produced by the IonQ company.

As the Forbes story explained, “IonQ beat its technology roadmap projection by more than a year by demonstrating its ReconfigurableMulticore Quantum Architecture (RMQA). This technology should eventually allow IonQ to begin scaling large numbers of qubits. Moreover, IonQ has also delivered another chip technology ahead of schedule - RMQA will be implemented on a new quantum chip platform called Evaporated Glass Traps (EGTs).”

Forbes went on to say that IonQ’s announcement of the new technologies was not paired with a supporting academic paper, but such a journal article is expected to come later. These circumstances prompted the writer, Smith-Goodson, to seek out Niffenegger for an expert clarifying opinion.

According to the Forbes story, “Dr. Robert Niffenegger, Assistant Professor Electrical and Computer Engineering at University of Massachusetts Amherst, said, “Certainly the new chip is impressive but without performance data...it is hard to determine how big of a step they’ve made.”

However, Smith-Goodson did not have room in his Forbes story for the full comments made by Niffenegger, which are included below.

During his complete interview with Smith-Goodson, Niffenegger also explained that “As to the new IonQ chip, I think it was a very surprising announcement given that they haven’t had many lately…I think everyone was expecting (and is still anticipating) a larger announcement to come this month before the IPO etc.”

In his interview, Niffenegger added that “Certainly the new chip is impressive but, without performance data regarding details of anomalous heating rates and prospects for further integration with the substrate, it is hard to determine how big of a step they’ve made, particularly because other types of traps with glass and sapphire substrates have been demonstrated before. That means that, on top of the new chip, many would expect a new result of quantum volume or multiqubit entanglement with the multi-core architecture.”

Niffenegger also told Smith-Goodson that “I would agree that, relative to Transmons, it is nice to see this renewed focus on the chip itself with ions. It certainly is what my research will focus on going forward.”

Niffenegger concluded his Forbes interview by explaining that “Questions about splits/merges and integration with photonics are at the top of my list, amongst many others pushing towards scale, so [it’s] hard to say this [announcement by IonQ] answers any of those questions yet. Probably not, but [it’s] certainly an interesting development whetting my appetite for more information.”

Niffenegger recently arrived at the ECE department from his position as a postdoctoral research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory in the Quantum Information and Integrated Nanosystems group, where he developed qubit unit cells for very large-scale integration quantum information processors based on ion surface trap chips with multi-wavelength integrated photonics.

Before that he worked in Intel’s Portland Technology Development for almost four years developing 7nm front-end process technology as an integration and yield engineer. He received his Physics Ph.D. from Purdue University and his B.S. in Physics from Michigan Technological University. (October 2021)