European Research Team Plans to Build a Better Quantum Annealer

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Better Quantum Annealer
A European research team plans to build a better quantum annealer.

A team of European quantum researchers and entrepreneurs plan to build and operate a 5-qubit quantum annealer prototype, according to a news release.

AVaQus, which stands for (Annealing-based VAriational QUantum processorS), added that the aim of the project is to build a quantum computer with high connectivity, tunable interactions and long coherence times.

The project, funded in the FET-Open 2019 call to develop a quantum processor that demonstrates coherent quantum annealing, will seek to overcome the limitations of current annealing devices by applying the latest developments in superconducting quantum circuits.

This will be a ramp-up effort to develop the core technology for building next-generation devices capable of performing quantum computation and simulation tasks that might rival classical computers in the long-term.

Europe’s bet on quantum annealing

AVaQus is the first European-funded large-scale project on quantum annealing and it will lead to the consolidation of quantum annealing hardware as a research field in Europe, and potentially as a future European quantum technology.

The project consortium is composed of 8 European partners 5 research centers and 3 quantum startups.

  • Institut de Física d’Altes Energies (IFAE), Barcelona (Spain), acting as the coordinator of AVaQus.
  • Karlrsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT), Karlsruhe (Germany).
  • Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Grenoble (France).
  • University of Glasgow (UG), Glasgow (UK).
  • Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Madrid (Spain).

Startups include:

  • Delft Circuits (DELFT), Delft (The Netherlands)
  • Qilimanjaro Quantum Tech, S.L. (QILI), Barcelona (Spain)
  • Heisenberg Quantum Simulations (HQS), Karlsruhe (Germany)

Together, they will develop all the hardware components and software to operate quantum annealer prototypes.

IFAE will operate as one of the two integration nodes together with KIT, assembling the components designed and developed by the partners CNRS, UG and DELFT. CSIC, QILI and HQS will be the teams developing the quantum software and applications to be run on the coherent quantum annealer developed by the experimental teams.

The total funds allocated to this project amount to 3 million euros for a duration of 3 years.

The project will collaborate with other European initiatives in quantum computing such as OpenSuperQ from the FET Flagship on Quantum Technologies (FET-QT), and Quantera-funded project SiUCs, also coordinated by IFAE.

A Promising Alternative

Most of today’s world-wide quantum computing research is focused on universal gate-based quantum computers. But this approach requires large numbers of qubits and quantum error correction to achieve meaningful results. This is why, quantum computing companies (Google, IBM, Intel, etc.) and European-funded projects such as OpenSuperQ develop instead Noisy Intermediate Scale Quantum (NISQ) devices that may perform useful tasks without quantum error correction. There is no evidence yet that NISQ devices can outperform classical computing, but a worldwide effort is being made to obtain useful applications in the short- to mid-term.

AVaQus focuses on an alternative approach by building instead analog quantum computers such as quantum annealers. The type of quantum processors proposed by AVaQus might offer more tolerance to quantum gate errors and thus a short-term transformative potential as an alternative to universal quantum computers.

Current quantum annealing developers, despite the remarkable technological feat of building circuits containing more than 2000 qubits, have so far not been able to show evidence of a quantum speedup over classical computers. Enhanced qubit coherence combined with novel qubit-qubit coupling elements might be the missing ingredients to display an advantage in real-world applications.

AVaQus banks on the progress of superconducting quantum technology to attempt a technological breakthrough: the first superconducting coherent quantum annealer able to perform quantum computation and simulation tasks using hardware designed for coherence. The key hardware development involves qubits that remain coherent throughout the computing cycle, combined with novel qubit-qubit coupling circuit elements. The software development will focus on the discovery of new applications beyond quantum annealing, such as quantum simulation and alternative quantum computing approaches.

AVaQus will explore applications of small-scale coherent quantum annealing algorithms for real-world problems, with potential for showing a quantum speedup. These include optimization and simulations in logistics, navigation, traffic, finance, quantum chemistry and machine learning.

A successful demonstration of AVaQus’ coherent quantum annealer will offer a bridgehead for future scientific and commercial applications.

AVaQus represents the first step to develop and consolidate the circuit components and algorithms that will be needed to build superconducting analog quantum processors in Europe.