They are expected to process large amounts faster than ever. Although the technology still poses many questions and challenges, the future of quantum computing could both serve as a paradigm shift in the world of high-performance computing while simultaneously greatly strengthen supercomputers’ abilities to solve humanity’s most intractable problems. In an effort to bring stakeholders and computing experts together to discuss this seismic shift in computing, LRZ began the Bavarian Quantum Computing eXchange (BQCX) “We wanted to understand the interests of academia and industry with regard to quantum computing, and quickly realized we needed to facilitate an exchange of knowledge,” said Laura Schulz, head of LRZ’s strategic development. “We bring in top-notch experts for this community to gain knowledge, foster local networking for partnership building, and leverage the community’s input to build an innovative applied quantum computing program for the Bavarian research ecosystem.”
Exchange of methods and technology
Over the last several months, LRZ set up a monthly get-together that has attracted scientists from Munich and Bavarian universities as well as representatives of international companies like Intel, Google, D-Wave and Strangeworks. Participants provide insights into ongoing research and discuss technical approaches. "This helps us understand what options are available now and what the goals are moving forward," says Dr. Luigi Iapichino, physicist and co-founder of BQCX. "We are looking at hardware solutions that are already available to see which algorithms, applications and software are suitable for the near and mid-term“.
Quantum computers make use of quantum mechanics effects like superposition and entanglement, which are extremely short-lived phenomena that are stilldifficult to control for macroscopic systems such as large supercomputers made up of many qubits. Prof. Rudolf Gross from the Walther Meissner Institute in Munich, Prof. Sabine Tornow from the University of Applied Sciences in Munich, and Dr. Fabio Baruffa from Intel are interested in the extraordinary computing power and in the possibilities of how qubits could be stabilized. Experiments have been conducted with chemical, electromagnetic or optical methods. The Australian startup Quantum Brilliance uses nitrogen vacancies in diamonds to build up qubits. Initial tests have shown that their systems can operate at room temperature. Temperatures around minus 270 degrees Celsius are otherwise common in quantum computing hardware. The most prominent application of this technology so far, resulting in the “quantum supremacy” paper released 2019, was presented by Alan Ho of Google.
Simulating quantum technology with supercomputers
Quantum computing is still in its infancy, but. companies such as IQM, Cambridge Quantum Computer, IBM, and Intel are working on the first processors and tools. "The BQCX community helps us to advance our work on SuperMUC-NG now as well as prepare for exascale and even post-exascale systems”, Iapichino says. "Just like with GPUs, quantum accelerators and their integration into extreme-scale HPC systems is a topic we need to think about now as we consider desigining future systems to meet our users’ needs."
The exchange of knowledge works: the first courses for quantum computing were held in cooperation with Google CIRQ and Intel Quantum Simulator, and more workshops are in preparation. Together with the Walter Meissner Institute and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics, LRZ is a strong part of the Bavarian quantum offensive. In addition, the PRACE activity "Future-Oriented Software Solutions" also benefits. Together with the Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC), LRZ works on the „QuantEx“ project, which acts as an evaluation of tools for simulating quantum circuits running on heterogeneous computing platforms and are intended to help prepare the future of computers. “Participants at BQCX can present projects and find partners for collaboration”, Schulz said. “We hope this nexus point proves greatly beneficial for the Bavarian quantum ecosystem.”