advanced  computing (wacomka/Shutterstock.com)

DOE dials up funding for quantum research

The Department of Energy plans to spend $40 million in research funding to develop new algorithms and software for quantum computers so they can be more widely used to tackle a range of scientific problems.

Current quantum computing hardware and architectures vary, and applications are limited. The algorithms and tools that have been developed remain application- and architecture-specific, limiting the potential of quantum computing for science more broadly.

DOE's plan would fund large, multidisciplinary teams to dramatically accelerate development of software adaptable to a range of different quantum computing systems as well as a wide variety of potential applications.

Proposals are invited on tools and resources that facilitate the use of diverse hardware technologies and architectures and on improving programming, mapping and resource management for a variety of quantum computing systems.

DOE intends to make two sets of awards – one to universities, industry and nonprofits, and one to national lab teams. Two to three collaborative teams will be funded at between $250,000 and $2,500,000 per year, over five years, subject to appropriations.

In December 2018, President Donald Trump signed the National Quantum Initiative Act, which authorized $1.2 billion over five years for boosting investment in quantum information science, building a quantum-smart workforce and calling for the development of a 10-year strategic plan.

Other agencies are also investing in quantum research.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology's Post Quantum Cryptography Standardization program aims to design encryption standards that will resist cracking by quantum computers. It has narrowed the field of contenders to 26.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has established a program to develop and evaluate a hybrid quantum/classical algorithm on noisy, intermediate-scale quantum devices. In July 2018 DARPA issued a request for information looking for suggestions on the kind of non-encryption-related problems quantum computing would be best suited for, along with solutions to challenges of scale, environmental interactions, connectivity and memory.

The Army, meanwhile, has invested in research to identify and evaluate possible challenges around the convergence of quantum physics and electronic warfare to its communications, sensors, navigation, precision weapons, drones, radar and cybersecurity systems.

NASA installed a D-Wave quantum computer in 2013 to tackle optimization problems that are difficult or impossible for traditional supercomputers to handle. In 2018 the space agency's Quantum Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Ames Research Center signed a contract with Ford Motor Company to help commercial fleet owners optimize energy consumption of vehicles whose efficiency varies with traffic flow patterns and speed changes.

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