IonQ will open quantum computer factory in the Seattle area and plans to invest $1B

IonQ plans to manufacture quantum computers at a 65,000-square-foot facility in Bothell, Wash. (IonQ Photo)

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 computing services offered through Amazon Braket, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

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Today’s announcement comes at a key moment for IonQ: Last year, the company rolled out its Aria computing system, which can run up to 25 interconnected algorithmic qubits. Its next-generation Forte system aims to raise that performance level to as many as 32 qubits. And just this month, IonQ acquired the operating assets of Entangled Networks, a Toronto-based company that has been working on a networked approach to quantum computing.

The build-out of IonQ’s Bothell facility will be overseen by Dave Mehuys, the company’s vice president of product engineering. Mehuys has more than two decades of experience managing hardware engineering, customer service and manufacturing operations for companies including PsiQuantum and Infinera.

“We know he will be of tremendous value to the IonQ team as we work to scale operations and further commercialize quantum computers,” Chapman said. “Dave’s experience in manufacturing will greatly benefit our work throughout the PNW, and his ability to lead as well as mentor multidisciplinary teams makes him an excellent fit for this new position.”

Two of Washington state’s leading lawmakers hailed IonQ’s expansion plans. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said putting the factory in Bothell “is a very big deal — and it’s great news for Washington state.”

“Opening this facility will absolutely help ensure Washington state continues to be a leader in innovation and cutting-edge technologies — but it also means jobs that will be an investment in our families and their futures,” Murray said.

U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, a Democrat who represents the congressional district in which the factory is located, said today’s announcement “further underscores Washington as a cutting-edge global technology and innovation hub.”

“Quantum computing is going to play a pivotal role in many aspects of technology in the 21st century,” DelBene said. “Our community’s unique tech infrastructure and skilled workforce make opportunities like this possible.”

Chapman’s experience at Amazon isn’t IonQ’s only Pacific Northwest connection: The company already has a Seattle presence and is a partner in the Northwest Quantum Nexus. Last year, the company teamed up with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to come up with a method for producing a steady stream of barium ions for quantum computing.

Chapman and other IonQ representatives will be in Seattle next week for the 2023 Northwest Quantum Nexus Summit at the University of Washington, and GeekWire’s Alan Boyle will be covering the event.