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The subatomic age: Asia's quantum computing arms race

Huawei and Alibaba among tech giants pouring money into development

The promise of quantum computing has always felt just out of reach. Now, venture capital is streaming into startups, government funds are backing new initiatives and technology companies are poaching talent from universities.   © Illustration by Eri Sato

SINGAPORE/TOKYO -- Dzmitry Matsukevich's laboratory is cramped and windowless, dominated by two large tables laid out with arrays of lasers, lenses, cables and black boxes arranged like some impenetrably complex board game. It is an experimentalist's space -- practical, prioritizing form over function. Plastic sheeting hangs in curtains from the ceiling; paperwork, boxes of components and rolls of electrical tape are piled on every spare surface.

Matsukevich, a principal investigator at Singapore's Center for Quantum Technologies, is a physicist out of central casting: mop-haired, earnest, and infectiously enthusiastic about two slightly blurred gray squares on a computer monitor. The squares are trapped ions, held in near total stillness by lasers: the foundational element of a quantum computer.

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