The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration confirmed Thursday that it built a special chip used in a disputed demonstration of quantum computing in February. NASA engineers used their experience with submicrometer dimensions and ultra-low temperatures to build a quantum processor for Canadian startup D-Wave Systems, said Alan Kleinsasser, principal investigator in the quantum chip program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. D-Wave claimed to demonstrate a prototype quantum computer during a news conference Feb. 13 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. But industry experts became skeptical when D-Wave revealed it had left the computer at its Vancouver office, then conducted the demonstration over a Web link.
"You could characterize our announcement as being met with enthusiasm from industry and skepticism from academia," D-Wave CEO Ed Martin said in an interview Feb. 27. But he said the event served as proof of concept of the technology and that D-Wave's potential customers are businesses that don't care how the technology works as long as it can solve their complex models. He plans to start renting time on the machine to customers in 2008. "Businesses aren't too fascinated about the details of quantum mechanics, but academics have their own axes to grind. I can assure you that our VCs look at us a lot closer than the government looks at the academics who win research grants," Martin said.