Duke Technology Powers First Pure-Play Quantum Computing Company to Wall Street

March 9, 2021 | By Ken Kingery

With a market capitalization valued around $2 billion, IonQ will become the first publicly traded company focused solely on quantum computing

Jungsang Kim and Chris Monroe flanking the IonQ logo

Jungsang Kim (left) and Chris Monroe (right) are cofounders of the quantum computing company IonQ, which will be the first pure-play quantum computing company to be publicly traded

Born from a 15-year-long collaboration between Duke University faculty members in engineering and physics, IonQ will become the first publicly traded company focused solely on quantum computing.

The company on March 8 announced it had entered into a merger agreement with dMY Technology Group, Inc. III (NYSE: DMYI.U), a publicly traded special purpose acquisition company (“dMY III”). Upon closing of the transaction, IonQ shares will trade on the NYSE under the symbol “IONQ.” Pro forma implied market capitalization of the combined company is approximately $2 billion.

The company, founded on a promising approach to quantum computing that uses trapped ions to store and manipulate data, has a licensing agreement to translate Duke innovations into IonQ technology. Its founders believe this translation will only accelerate with the newly established Duke Quantum Center—a 20,000-square-foot space in downtown Durham, North Carolina that will offer programmable, reconfigurable quantum computing capability to engineers, physicists, chemists, mathematicians or anyone who comes forward with a complex optimization problem they’d like to try on a powerful quantum computing system.

“I am excited about this critical milestone on the path to commercializing quantum computing technology that started out at Duke,” said Jungsang Kim, professor of electrical and computer engineering and physics at Duke University and a co-founder of IonQ. “It is a great opportunity for Duke to stay at the forefront of quantum computing technology.”

“Jungsang and I have been working together for 15 years to build and use quantum computers based on engineering the best quantum components. IonQ’s announcement is a critical milestone in this path. Now that we are both at Duke, we expect things to go into high gear with the new Duke Quantum Center.”

- chris monroe

In the classical computers that people use every day, information is stored as bits in transistors as either a “1” or a “0” and must be manipulated sequentially. In quantum computers, information is stored in components called “qubits” that, thanks to quantum mechanics, can be both a 1 and a 0 at the same time while having a statistical preference for one or the other. With multiple qubits, the number of possible values grows enormously, allowing a quantum computer to process huge amounts of information in ways that are impossible using a classical computer.

“Jungsang and I have been working together for 15 years to build and use quantum computers based on engineering the best quantum components,” added Chris Monroe, professor of electrical and computer engineering and physics and the other co-founder of IonQ, who recently joined Duke from the University of Maryland – College Park. “IonQ’s announcement is a critical milestone in this path. Now that we are both at Duke, we expect things to go into high gear with the new Duke Quantum Center.”

For straightforward tasks such as the trajectory of a cannonball, a quantum computer is not likely to ever be able to compete with a classical computer. But for fields such as cryptography, modeling chemical reactions and predicting the future of climate change, a quantum computer isn’t just a better option, it’s a necessity.

Industry giants including Microsoft, IBM and Google are also pursuing quantum computing technologies, but through different means. Their technologies use superconducting solid-state circuits that are controlled electronically. IonQ uses trapped ions—atoms stripped of a single electron, giving it a positive electric charge so that they can be suspended in a vacuum and manipulated with lasers.

Their approach has thus far produced the first and only quantum computer available via the cloud on both Amazon Braket and Microsoft Azure, leading IonQ to define what it believes to be the best path forward to scaling quantum computing power. By 2023, IonQ plans to develop modular quantum computers small enough to be networked together, which could pave the way for systems that can outperform conventional computers on a broad range of topics by 2025. IonQ believes the twenty-first century will be defined by quantum computing and that this technology will have an even greater impact than classical computing had over the last 100 years.

“This transaction advances IonQ’s mission, to solve critical problems that impact nearly every aspect of society,” said Peter Chapman, CEO & President of IonQ. “We look forward to leveraging the power of quantum computing in the fight against climate change and to solve vexing problems from materials design to logistics that impact the transportation industry.”

Read more about quantum computing at Duke