Today is World Quantum Day – What’s That?

By John Russell

April 14, 2022

Thanks to Planck’s constant — 4.14 x 10-15 eV seconds, rounded up (or 6.63 x 10-34 Joule seconds, if you prefer) — April 14 has been designated World Quantum Day by a loosely affiliated group of scientists and organizations around the world, including the U.S. (see website). The broad idea is to spotlight quantum information science’s rapid growth and, in particular, to stir excitement about the quantum opportunities at all levels of education.

Back in February, the White House OSTP chimed in with its support: “For World Quantum Day, the Q-12 partnership will bring quantum learning activities to classrooms across the country through the community driven activity QuanTime. Organizations and individuals are encouraged to engage in this international celebration and can learn about ways to get involved at”

Organizers have big hopes, as noted on the U.S Quantum|gov site: “A goal of World Quantum Day is to promote public awareness of the positive impact quantum science has had and will have on society. The celebration will take place every year on April 14 with events across the globe. The National Quantum Coordination Office is excited to participate in #WorldQuantumDay advancing quantum awareness, and encouraging community members to consider how they can participate in World Quantum Day activities.”

There doesn’t seem to be a central galvanizing force with an official list of events so much as a clarion call for interested parties to grab the label and have an event.

Love the idea or not, it turns out a few organizations are taking advantage of World Quantum Day (serendipitously or otherwise) to wave the quantum flag amid the usual steady stream of quantum news.

Main AQT cryogenic dilution refrigerator (Credit: Berkeley Lab

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories’ Advanced Quantum Testbed issued a progress report today. Intel and QuTech researchers announced a significant advance in creating silicon qubits at scale in a Nature paper published today. Q-Ctrl launched an enhanced version of its Black Opal quantum education platform. And PsiQuantum capped off a bumper week with a $25 million award to it and GlobalFoundries for continued development of its photonics quantum computer and the announcement of significant work (paper) with Mercedes-Benz on applying fault-tolerant quantum computing to Li-ion simulation.

There was even a notable position change. Prineha Narang, a founder and CTO at quantum networking startup Aliro, today announced she’s moving from Harvard (where she has been an assistant professor) to UCLA, where she will join its chemistry faculty as the Howard Reiss Development Chair.

No doubt there are many more WQD events taking place today. Here are some highlights from the news cited above.

LBNL Advanced Quantum Testbed Progress

AQT director Irfan Siddiqi (Credit: Berkeley Lab)

AQT is one of two DOE quantum testbeds working with commercial and academic researchers and with the new National Quantum Information Sciences (QIS) Research Centers, which were created under the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA, 2018). Broadly speaking, the testbeds are externally facing and community-focused, i.e., making quantum processors (hardware and software) available to scientists, startups and the broader community for collaborative research.

Led by director Irfan Siddiqi, here are three examples of AQT work cited in the progress report:

  • Control Electronics. An important hardware advancement is a novel FPGA-based control and measurement system – QubiC – that is modular and open source. QubiC is capable of the efficient upload and execution of quantum experiments with minimal overhead, can be customized to accommodate unique needs of users and has demonstrated fast feedback. AQT scientists have used QubiC to develop and implement automated calibration of two-qubit gates.
  • High-fidelity iToffoli Gate. This project resulted in the first experimental demonstration of the high-fidelity iToffoli gate (~98 percent) by driving three superconducting qubits at the same frequency using simultaneous microwave excitation. The simplicity of the experiment implemented the iToffoli gate in a linear chain without decomposition into one- and two-qubit gates, making the gate calibration straightforward and showing how the gate can be efficiently implemented on any microwave-based superconducting quantum processor. This 3-qubit gate demonstration completes the necessary gate set for universal quantum computation, paving the way for more efficient quantum circuit executions.
  • Improving SWAP. Chicago-based used AQT’s platform to experimentally validate a project optimizing the execution of fermionic SWAP networks on four qubits. The fermionic SWAP network offers a promising path forward for coping with limited qubit connectivity by enabling a qubit routing sequence that can be used to efficiently execute the Quantum Approximate Optimization Algorithm (QAOA). The project used a complete set of native hardware operations to decompose the relevant quantum gates and SWAP networks, minimizing circuit depth and maximizing gate cancellation. The project also introduced Equivalent Circuit Averaging, which randomizes over degrees of freedom in the quantum circuit compilation to reduce the impact of systematic coherent errors.

(See the earlier HPCwire coverage of AQT.)

Intel and QuTech Improve Qubits Fab Process

Intel has long argued its approach to leveraging CMOS manufacturing to create quantum dot qubits would enable it to more easily scale up quantum computer sizer. Working with longtime collaborator QuTech, Intel reported in Nature Electronics they were able to use an all-optical lithography to “fabricate more than 10,000 arrays with several silicon-spin qubits on a single wafer with greater than 95 percent yield. This achievement is dramatically higher in both qubit count and yield than the typical university and laboratory processes used today.”

Jim Clark, Intel

“Quantum computing has the potential to deliver exponential performance for certain applications in the high-performance compute space,” said James Clarke, director of Quantum Hardware at Intel, in today’s official announcement. “Our research proves that a full-scale quantum computer is not only achievable but also could be produced in a present-day chip factory. We look forward to continuing to work with QuTech to apply our expertise in silicon fabrication to unlock the full potential of quantum.”

Here’s the abstract of their paper:

“Full-scale quantum computers require the integration of millions of qubits, and the potential of using industrial semiconductor manufacturing to meet this need has driven the development of quantum computing in silicon quantum dots. However, fabrication has so far relied on electron-beam lithography and, with a few exceptions, conventional lift-off processes that suffer from low yield and poor uniformity.

“Here we report quantum dots that are hosted at a Si/SiO2 interface and fabricated in a 300 mm semiconductor manufacturing facility using all-optical lithography and fully industrial processing. With this approach, we achieve nanoscale gate patterns with excellent yield. In the multi-electron regime, the quantum dots allow good tunnel barrier control—a crucial feature for fault-tolerant two-qubit gates. Single-spin qubit operation using magnetic resonance in the few-electron regime reveals relaxation times of over 1s at 1T and coherence times of over 3 ms.”

The researchers recognize more work needs to be done: “We have indications that performance-limiting defects are formed through downstream processing. Further work is ongoing to optimize the process flow and recipes (temperature budget, plasma conditions, chemical exposure and annealing conditions) to reduce defects at the end of the line. Although there are significant challenges to overcome to engineer out these defects and improve the qubit performance and scalability, the full 300mm device-integration line established by us will allow us to run a high volume of experiments to accelerate this development over that achievable by conventional fabrication methods.”

Q-Ctrl’s Black Opal

Think of Q-Ctrl, an Australia-based start-up, as a middleware/firmware company for quantum computing. It has been developing and offering software tools to help improve performance of underlying noisy intermediate-scale quantum (NISQ) computers.

“Imagine you take any quantum architecture–superconducting qubits, trapped ion, whatever–and you put a piece of software on it and the hardware can now suddenly become 100x or 1000x better. That is the problem that we sought to solve,” said Aravind Ratnam, Q-Ctrl’s chief strategy officer, in an HPCwire interview earlier this year. Bolder Opal is Q-Ctrl’s product intended to accomplish the speed/improvement.

The company also has an education platform–Black Opal–in its portfolio, and today released Black Opal Pro in conjunction with World Quantum Day. It will offer two annual subscriptions for the price one as a WQD special during April 14-20. Black Opal is a browser-access tool which the company promotes as the “ideal tool to reduce the barrier to entry into the complex and fast-growing field of quantum computing by allowing users to complete modular, hands-on tasks.” The annual subscription is $9.99/mo.

Capitalizing on WQD, Q-Ctrl founder Michael Biercuk is quoted, as well: “We see that building and supporting a community is essential for the success of the quantum industry where our team leads global innovations. We need educated and empowered future team members, investors, and policymakers who can really understand the opportunity that quantum computing presents. With Black Opal, we combined our expertise in quantum computing with our prowess in product design to help anyone go from zero background to programming quantum computers.”

PsiQuantum is Hitting on All Cylinders

It’s been a good week or so for PsiQuantum, not least because of a $25 million award as part of the recently passed U.S. FY2022 package shepherded by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer from New York. It’s a joint award to PsiQuantum and NY-based GlobalFoundries that will “expand research and development spearheaded out of the Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, New York (Rome Lab), to manufacture and test photonic quantum computing technology.”

Last year, the Air Force’s Rome Lab was designated as the Quantum Information Science Research Center for the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force. It received $10 million (announced earlier this year) to establish the Quantum Computing Test Bed.

PsiQuantum is one of relatively few quantum computing start-ups betting on photonics-based quantum computing. It’s been in stealth mode but has revealed more of its underlying technology–fusion based quantum computing–approach over the past year or so. Unlike most other quantum computing hopefuls who are developing so-called NISQ (noisy intermediate scale quantum) computers, PsiQuantum has said it will launch with a full fault-tolerant system that has one million qubits.

HPCwire recently spoke with one of the company’s founders (and current CSO), Peter Shadbolt, and will shortly publish a profile of PsiQuantum. The company is seeking to leveraging existing semiconductor manufacturing techniques as well as commercial fiber optic technology in its approach to quantum computing.

The latest PsiQuantum-GlobalFoundaries award is another vote of confidence in the PsiQuantum’s technology. PsiQuantum is already well-funded, having raked in nearly $700 million in various rounds. Josh Richman, chief revenue officer of PsiQuantum, told HPCwire, “[The latest funding] validates and recognizes our ability to leverage the U.S. semiconductor industry to build a scalable, fault-tolerant, utility-scale, useful quantum computer. We’re thrilled about that announcement and what this represents.”

Josh Richman, PsiQuantum

He said the funding will go towards needed tools and will accelerate integration of those tools into the fabrication process. “As you know, our approach all along has been, instead of building a ladder incrementally to the moon, to focus on the key components of the rocket ship that’s required to take us [all the way] to the moon. Those components are being developed and manufactured at GlobalFoundries. This funding is going to allow accelerated investment to enable what we need to do to achieve that goal,” said Richman.

Along with the new funding, PsiQuantum also reported an improved approach to simulating chemical systems. In a paper co-authored with Mercedes-Benz R&D and published last week in APS’s Physical Review Research, PsiQuantum said “a new analysis of how electrolyte molecules in Lithium-ion batteries (LiB) can be simulated on a fault-tolerant quantum computer, enabling breakthroughs sought by automotive manufacturers in next-generation battery design.”

Broadly, the computational costs for first-principles simulation of many molecules is beyond the practical capability of both classical and NISQ computers. The hope is that fault-tolerant quantum computers, such as the one being developed by PsiQuantum, will be able to tackle these kinds of problems. The PsiQuantum-Mercedes-Benz work looks at how fusion-based quantum computing might handle such simulations in battery material research.

The researchers write:

“Recently, there have been continued innovative developments in quantum algorithms for quantum chemistry, which have led to many orders of magnitude reduction in the resources required to simulate molecules at accuracies beyond the reach of classical computation. These developments have been driven by a focus on a few molecular systems that take part in complex reactions that underlie high-impact open problems in chemistry (e.g., elucidating the mechanism of nitrogen fixation at FeMoco active sites. Importantly, the cost reduction techniques found in these studies are expected to be applicable to other chemical systems as well.

“We propose one such concrete application: the study of electrolyte molecules for Li-ion batteries. In conventional Li-ion batteries, the liquid electrolyte plays an important role in determining the performance and the stability of the batteries. Quantum chemical simulation of the underlying constituent molecules can help us better understand electrochemical re- actions occurring in the liquid electrolytes and serve as a useful guide in establishing design principles for better electrolytes.”

In its announcement yesterday, PsiQuantum reported that these electrolyte simulations uncovered new optimizations, only apparent at the scale of fault-tolerant quantum computation, which reduced the resource overhead of the application to be more manageable. Look for HPCwire’s upcoming profile of PsiQuantum’s approach and progress.

Prineha Narang Goes West

Prineha Narang, UCLA and Aliro

Currently an assistant professor at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University, Prineha Narang will transition NarangLab, her interdisciplinary group founded at Harvard, to UCLA, where she and her team will continue to explore topics at the intersection of computational science, condensed matter theory, quantum photonics and quantum information science. Her appointment is effective July 1st of this year.

“We are delighted to welcome Pri to UCLA,” said Miguel García-Garibay, UCLA’s dean of Physical Sciences in the official announcement. “She is a pioneer in theoretical and computational quantum matter with a bold vision for the field that we are eager to see realized here.”

Over the last year, Narang won several awards, including the Mildred Dresselhaus Prize for “outstanding contributions to the field of quantum science and technology,” the IUPAP Young Scientist Prize in Computational Physics for “pioneering achievements in computational nanophotonics, quantum plasmonics and ab initio descriptions of ultrafast dynamics in quantum materials,” a Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award (Bessel Prize) from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and a Max Planck Sabbatical Award from the Max Planck Society.

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