Researchers plan to harness the power of quantum mechanics in order to develop quantum computers capable of simulating phenomenon at an unimaginable scale and speed on standard architectures.
This is considered to be an effort of immense interest to agencies such as the Department of Energy responsible for tackling some of most complex science problems in the world.
DOE’s Office of Science has awarded more than $10 million over five years to two research teams, each led by a member of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Quantum Information Science Group, in order to both evaluate the feasibility of quantum architectures in addressing huge science problems and to create algorithms capable of harnessing the massive power predicted of quantum computing systems. The two projects aim at working in parallel to guarantee synergy across DOE’s quantum computing research spectrum and then to maximize mutual benefits.
ORNL’s Raphael Pooser will supervise an effort titled, “Methods and Interfaces for Quantum Acceleration of Scientific Applications,” part of the larger Quantum Computing Testbed Pathfinder program financially supported by DOE’s Advanced Scientific Computing Research office.
Pooser’s team, which is made up of partners from IBM, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, commercial quantum computing developer IonQ, received $7.5 million over five years in order to study the performance of a suite of applications on near-term quantum architectures.
According to Pooser, the idea is to work with industry leaders in order to understand the potential of quantum architectures in resolving scientific challenges on the scale of those being tackled by DOE. ORNL will concentrate on scientific applications spanning three fields of study: quantum field theory, quantum machine learning and quantum chemistry.
Quantum applications that are more exact and faster than their classical counterparts exist or have been proposed in all of these fields, at least theoretically, our job is to determine whether we can get them to work on today’s quantum hardware and on the hardware of the near future.
Raphael Pooser, the team leader from ORNL
A number of these applications have never been earlier programmed for quantum architectures, which presents a unique challenge. It is necessary to tune applications to the hardware in order to maximize accuracy and performance since today’s quantum computers are relatively small. This will need an in depth understanding of the uniquely quantum areas of the programs, and it also requires running them on different quantum architectures in order to assess their validity, and eventually their feasibility.
“Many new quantum programming techniques have evolved to address this problem,” said Pooser, adding that his team would “implement new programming models that leverage the analog nature of quantum simulators.”
To boost their chances of success, Pooser’s team will work in close partnership with his ORNL colleague Pavel Lougovski who is supervising the “Heterogeneous Digital-Analog Quantum Dynamics Simulations” effort, which has received $3 million over a period of three years.
Lougovski has collaborated with the University of Washington’s Institute for Nuclear Theory and the University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU in Bilbao, Spain, in order to develop quantum simulation algorithms for applications in nuclear physics and condensed matter, specifically large-scale, many-body systems of special interest to DOE’s Office of Science.
Lougovski’s team will follow an algorithm design approach that incorporates best features of digital and analog quantum computing with the final goal of matching the complexity of quantum simulation algorithms to existing quantum architectures. Development and deployment of quantum hardware is a nascent field compared to standard computing platforms, and because of this the team will also harness the power of hybrid quantum systems that make use of a combination of quantum computers and standard processors.
“We have assembled a multidisciplinary team of computer scientists, applied mathematicians, scientific application domain experts, and quantum computing researchers,” Lougovski said. “Quantum simulation algorithms, much like our team, are a melting pot of various quantum and classical computing primitives. Striking a right balance between them and available hardware will enable new science beyond the reach of conventional approaches.”
ORNL’s quantum information researchers are known to have decades of quantum computing research experience, and the laboratory has also made major investments all over the quantum spectrum, including in quantum sensing and quantum communications, and has strong relationships with industry leaders. The lab’s Quantum Computing Institute brings together expertise across the quantum spectrum and promotes collaboration across domains, from nanotechnology to chemistry to biology physics.
These assets, combined with ORNL’s rich history in standard high-performance computing and ramping up applications to exploit powerful computing resources, will be vital in realizing the potential of the quantum platform to immensely increase scientific understanding of the natural world.
UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the DOE Office of Science. The Office of Science is considered to be the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is striving towards addressing some of the most demanding challenges that currently exist.