Sydney Nanoscience Hub Tackles Quantum Computing Challenges at the Nanoscale

April 3, 2020

April 3, 2020 — It’s been said that quantum computing will be like going from candlelight to electric light in the way it will transform how we live. Quite a picture, but what exactly is quantum computing?

For the answer to that question, we’ll have to visit a scale of existence so small that the usual rules of physics are warped, stretched and broken, and there are few layperson terms to lean on. Strap yourself in.

Luckily, we have a world-leading researcher in quantum computing, Professor David Reilly, to guide us. “Most modern technologies are largely based on electromagnetism and Newtonian mechanics,” says Reilly in a meeting room at the University’s Nano Hub. “Quantum computing taps into an enormous new area of nano physics that we haven’t harnessed yet.”

With his youthful looks and laid-back demeanor, Reilly isn’t how you might picture a quantum physicist. He has five Fender guitars (with not much time to play them), and a weakness for single malt Scotches. That said, science has never been far below the surface. As a child, he would pull apart flashlights to see how they worked. During his Ph.D. years, knowledge was more important than sleep; he often worked past 3 am to finish experiments.

A good place to start the quantum computing story is with the humble transistor, which is simply a switch that allows, blocks or varies the flow of electricity, or more correctly, electrons. Invented in 1947, it replaced the large, energy-hungry vacuum tubes in radios and amplifiers, also finding its way into computers.

This off/on gate effect of transistors is the origin of the zeroes and ones idea in traditional (aka classical) computers. Ever-shrinking transistors are also how computers have gone from room-filing monsters to tiny devices in our pockets – currently, just one square millimeter of computer chip can hold 100 million transistors.

Incredible, yes, but also unsustainable. With transistors now operating at the size of atoms, they literally can’t get much smaller, and they’re now at a scale where the different, nanoscale laws of physics are warping and compromising their usefulness. “At that scale, an electron stops behaving like a ball being stopped by the transistor gate,” Reilly says. “It’s more like a wave. It can actually tunnel through or teleport to the other side, so the on/off effect is lost.”

Quantum computing seeks to solve this problem, but it also promises a great leap forward. It’s based on the idea that transistors can be replaced by actual atomic particles where the zeros and ones aren’t predicated on the flow or non-flow of electrons, but on the property or energy state of the atomic particle itself.

These particles can come from various sources (and are usually engineered in nanoscale devices) but they’re called collectively, qubits. Now things get trickier. Yes, tricker. Where a transistor can be either one or zero, it’s a weird fact of quantum physics, that a qubit can be one or zero at the same time, like a spinning coin that holds the possibility of both heads and tails.

For a single qubit, this doubles the one-and zero mechanism. And for every qubit added, the one/zero combinations increase exponentially

It is envisaged that quantum computers could have billions of qubits, representing phenomenal computing power. That’s very broadly the theory, but what currently keeps Reilly up at night is how to build the machinery that will allow the theory to impact the real world.

This machine would need a mechanism for manipulating the state of the qubits and a way of inputting and outputting information. As an added challenge, to make it all controllable, the machine would have to operate at minus 273°C, just a shade above absolute zero. “How to do all that is technically and fundamentally challenging. There are big scientific questions, big engineering questions, but that’s what we do here,” Reilly says, unflustered.

The quality of the work happening at the Hub was powerfully endorsed in 2017, when the Microsoft Corporation proposed a research partnership with the University, one of only four such arrangements Microsoft has in the world. “This is not a research grant,” Reilly says. “Microsoft have been working in quantum computing since 2005 and they’re in it for the long haul. Now we’re working together, elbow to elbow in the labs, on something where every part is a work in progress.

It’s a partnership advancing a frontier.” Reilly’s role sees him straddling the corporate and the academic, where deep knowledge is important but always with the goal of creating something real. Remembering how even great work can vanish into academic papers, Reilly says, “The thought of not knowing whether this technology can come alive, I find to be scary. Connecting the discovery bit to the industry engineering machine means you actually see the whole system come together. That’s exciting.”

So, where might quantum computing be put to work? The first thing to know is that our classical computers will not disappear from homes or offices. Quantum computers work on a scale well beyond emails, video games and spreadsheets. They will be about hugely accelerating global research and production.

“If you look at the top 10, classicaltype supercomputers on the planet right now, you’ll find some are doing defense applications, like simulating weapons,” Reilly says. “But a big chunk of them, are renting time out to pharmaceutical companies to understand the basic chemistry of different types of drugs which is really complex stuff.”

These are the areas – industrial chemistry, pharmaceuticals, climate, city planning – where quantum computing could bring unimagined speed and accuracy, and the possibility of much more.

“Go back to the invention of things like the transistor and you’ll see that humankind’s ability to imagine what a new technology might do in the longer term is pretty poor. “Likewise, this new physics promises new technology,” says Reilly. “And chances are, it will be revolutionary.”


Source:  George Dodd, University of Sydney 

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Supercomputers Take to the Solar Winds

June 5, 2020

The whims of the solar winds – charged particles flowing from the Sun’s atmosphere – can interfere with systems that are now crucial for modern life, such as satellites and GPS services – but these winds can be d Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPC in O&G: Deep Sea Drilling – What Happens Now   

June 4, 2020

At the beginning of March I attended the Rice Oil & Gas HPC conference in Houston. That seems a long time ago now. It’s a great event where oil and gas specialists join with compute veterans and the discussion tell Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

NCSA Wades into Post-Blue Waters Era with Delta Supercomputer

June 3, 2020

NSF has awarded the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) $10 million for its next supercomputer - named Delta – “which will kick-start NCSA’s next generation of supercomputers post-Blue Waters,” Read more…

By John Russell

Dell Integrates Bitfusion for vHPC, GPU ‘Pools’

June 3, 2020

Dell Technologies advanced its hardware virtualization strategy to AI workloads this week with the introduction of capabilities aimed at expanding access to GPU and HPC services via its EMC, VMware and recently acquired Read more…

By George Leopold

Supercomputers Streamline Prediction of Dangerous Arrhythmia

June 2, 2020

Heart arrhythmia can prove deadly, contributing to the hundreds of thousands of deaths from cardiac arrest in the U.S. every year. Unfortunately, many of those arrhythmia are induced as side effects from various medicati Read more…

By Staff report

AWS Solution Channel

Join AWS, Univa and Intel for This Informative Session!

Event Date: June 18, 2020

More enterprises than ever are turning to HPC cloud computing. Whether you’re just getting started, or more mature in your use of cloud, this HPC Cloud webinar is an excellent opportunity to gain valuable insights and knowledge to help accelerate your HPC cloud projects. Read more…

Indiana University to Deploy Jetstream 2 Cloud with AMD, Nvidia Technology

June 2, 2020

Indiana University has been awarded a $10 million NSF grant to build ‘Jetstream 2,’ a cloud computing system that will provide 8 aggregate petaflops of computing capability in support of data analysis and AI workload Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

NCSA Wades into Post-Blue Waters Era with Delta Supercomputer

June 3, 2020

NSF has awarded the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) $10 million for its next supercomputer - named Delta – “which will kick-start NCS Read more…

By John Russell

Indiana University to Deploy Jetstream 2 Cloud with AMD, Nvidia Technology

June 2, 2020

Indiana University has been awarded a $10 million NSF grant to build ‘Jetstream 2,’ a cloud computing system that will provide 8 aggregate petaflops of comp Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

By Doug Black

COVID-19 HPC Consortium Expands to Europe, Reports on Research Projects

May 28, 2020

The COVID-19 HPC Consortium, a public-private effort delivering free access to HPC processing for scientists pursuing coronavirus research – some utilizing AI Read more…

By Doug Black

$100B Plan Submitted for Massive Remake and Expansion of NSF

May 27, 2020

Legislation to reshape, expand - and rename - the National Science Foundation has been submitted in both the U.S. House and Senate. The proposal, which seems to Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Boosts Deep Learning Accuracy on Memristive Chips

May 27, 2020

IBM researchers have taken another step towards making in-memory computing based on phase change (PCM) memory devices a reality. Papers in Nature and Frontiers Read more…

By John Russell

Hats Over Hearts: Remembering Rich Brueckner

May 26, 2020

HPCwire and all of the Tabor Communications family are saddened by last week’s passing of Rich Brueckner. He was the ever-optimistic man in the Red Hat presiding over the InsideHPC media portfolio for the past decade and a constant presence at HPC’s most important events. Read more…

Nvidia Q1 Earnings Top Expectations, Datacenter Revenue Breaks $1B

May 22, 2020

Nvidia’s seemingly endless roll continued in the first quarter with the company announcing blockbuster earnings that exceeded Wall Street expectations. Nvidia Read more…

By Doug Black

Supercomputer Modeling Tests How COVID-19 Spreads in Grocery Stores

April 8, 2020

In the COVID-19 era, many people are treating simple activities like getting gas or groceries with caution as they try to heed social distancing mandates and protect their own health. Still, significant uncertainty surrounds the relative risk of different activities, and conflicting information is prevalent. A team of Finnish researchers set out to address some of these uncertainties by... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Turns Its Massive Crowdsourced Computer Network Against COVID-19

March 16, 2020

For gamers, fighting against a global crisis is usually pure fantasy – but now, it’s looking more like a reality. As supercomputers around the world spin up Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Rallies a Legion of Computers Against the Coronavirus

March 24, 2020

Last week, we highlighted [email protected], a massive, crowdsourced computer network that has turned its resources against the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe – but [email protected] isn’t the only game in town. The internet is buzzing with crowdsourced computing... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Global Supercomputing Is Mobilizing Against COVID-19

March 12, 2020

Tech has been taking some heavy losses from the coronavirus pandemic. Global supply chains have been disrupted, virtually every major tech conference taking place over the next few months has been canceled... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Simulations Reveal the Fate of the Neanderthals

May 25, 2020

For hundreds of thousands of years, neanderthals roamed the planet, eventually (almost 50,000 years ago) giving way to homo sapiens, which quickly became the do Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DoE Expands on Role of COVID-19 Supercomputing Consortium

March 25, 2020

After announcing the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium on Sunday, the Department of Energy yesterday provided more details on its sco Read more…

By John Russell

Steve Scott Lays Out HPE-Cray Blended Product Roadmap

March 11, 2020

Last week, the day before the El Capitan processor disclosures were made at HPE's new headquarters in San Jose, Steve Scott (CTO for HPC & AI at HPE, and former Cray CTO) was on-hand at the Rice Oil & Gas HPC conference in Houston. He was there to discuss the HPE-Cray transition and blended roadmap, as well as his favorite topic, Cray's eighth-gen networking technology, Slingshot. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Honeywell’s Big Bet on Trapped Ion Quantum Computing

April 7, 2020

Honeywell doesn’t spring to mind when thinking of quantum computing pioneers, but a decade ago the high-tech conglomerate better known for its control systems waded deliberately into the then calmer quantum computing (QC) waters. Fast forward to March when Honeywell announced plans to introduce an ion trap-based quantum computer whose ‘performance’ would... Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

AMD
AMD
ASROCK RACK
ASROCK RACK
AWS
AWS
CEJN
CJEN
CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
IBM
IBM
MELLANOX
MELLANOX
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
SIX NINES IT
SIX NINES IT
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL
WEKAIO
WEKAIO

Contributors

Tech Conferences Are Being Canceled Due to Coronavirus

March 3, 2020

Several conferences scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, including Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference (GTC) and the Strata Data + AI conference, have Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Exascale Watch: El Capitan Will Use AMD CPUs & GPUs to Reach 2 Exaflops

March 4, 2020

HPE and its collaborators reported today that El Capitan, the forthcoming exascale supercomputer to be sited at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and serve Read more…

By John Russell

‘Billion Molecules Against COVID-19’ Challenge to Launch with Massive Supercomputing Support

April 22, 2020

Around the world, supercomputing centers have spun up and opened their doors for COVID-19 research in what may be the most unified supercomputing effort in hist Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Cray to Provide NOAA with Two AMD-Powered Supercomputers

February 24, 2020

The United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last week announced plans for a major refresh of its operational weather forecasting supercomputers, part of a 10-year, $505.2 million program, which will secure two HPE-Cray systems for NOAA’s National Weather Service to be fielded later this year and put into production in early 2022. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

15 Slides on Programming Aurora and Exascale Systems

May 7, 2020

Sometime in 2021, Aurora, the first planned U.S. exascale system, is scheduled to be fired up at Argonne National Laboratory. Cray (now HPE) and Intel are the k Read more…

By John Russell

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

Australian Researchers Break All-Time Internet Speed Record

May 26, 2020

If you’ve been stuck at home for the last few months, you’ve probably become more attuned to the quality (or lack thereof) of your internet connection. Even Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU: Up to 2.5X the HPC, 20X the AI

May 14, 2020

Nvidia's first Ampere-based graphics card, the A100 GPU, packs a whopping 54 billion transistors on 826mm2 of silicon, making it the world's largest seven-nanom Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This