IonQ will open quantum computer factory in Seattle area

Maryland-based IonQ says it’s opening a 65,000-square-foot research and manufacturing facility in Bothell, Wash., to build quantum computers. The opening is part of IonQ’s broader plan to invest $1 billion in the Pacific Northwest over the next 10 years, the company says.

The Bothell facility will be the first known dedicated quantum computer manufacturing facility in the United States, according to IonQ. Peter Chapman, the former Amazon executive who serves as IonQ’s CEO and president, said today in a news release that the Seattle area was “the best option for our new facility.”

“Advanced technologies like quantum computing are key to solving the world’s most pressing challenges such as climate change, energy and transportation,” Chapman said. “The Seattle region has been a hub of tech innovation and manufacturing for decades, and has the skilled workforce we need to design, build and manufacture our quantum computers.”

The building on Bothell’s Monte Villa Parkway, which once housed offices for AT&T Wireless, will host the company’s second quantum data center and serve as the primary production engineering location for North America. IonQ says it plans to bring thousands of jobs to the Pacific Northwest region in the years ahead.

Like artificial intelligence, quantum information science is an alluring frontier for the computer industry.

In contrast to the one-or-zero processing method that’s at the core of classical computing, quantum computing takes advantage of the weirdness of quantum physics, where a quantum bit (or “qubit”) can represent multiple values until the results are read out. Quantum processing is well-suited for solving problems that involve optimizing systems (for example, untangling Seattle traffic) or sifting through large data sets (for example, unraveling the structure of complex molecules).

IonQ was founded in 2015 as a spin-out from the University of Maryland — and uses a trapped-ion approach to quantum computing, as opposed to the superconducting-circuit approach favored by, say, IBM and Google. In addition to providing direct API access to its quantum systems, IonQ supports cloud-based quantum services offered through Amazon Braket, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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