What you can do today to protect against quantum computing

Sandia’s QSCOUT now open for business, other quantum news

To accelerate advances in quantum computing, Sandia National Laboratories has made its Quantum Scientific Computing Open User Testbed (QSCOUT), available to the scientific community.

An open platform, QSCOUT will not only give researchers access to full specifications and control for exploring all high-level quantum and classical processes, but it will also allow them to optimize the internals of the testbed and experiment with more advanced implementations of quantum operations, Sandia officials said.

QSCOUT has been built with trapped ion technology, which can operate at temperatures warmer than other commercial testbeds that require ultralow temperatures

“QSCOUT serves a need in the quantum community by giving users the controls to study the machine itself, which aren’t yet available in commercial quantum computing systems,” Sandia physicist and QSCOUT lead Susan Clark said. “It also saves theorists and scientists from the trouble of building their own machines.”

Scientists from Indiana University recently became the first team to begin using the testbed. Researchers from IBM, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the University of New Mexico and the University of California, Berkeley, will also be soon conducting experiments ranging from testing benchmarking techniques to developing algorithms to solve problems too complex for classical computers.

Anyone can submit a proposal to use QSCOUT, and computing time is free thanks to funding from the Energy Department’s Office of Science, Advanced Scientific Computing Research program.

Read more here.

Between classical and quantum computing

Probabilistic computing may provide the bridge from classical computing to quantum computing, and researchers at Purdue University say they believe they can solve some optimization problems that previously were reserved for quantum computing with a probabilistic computer.

Like quantum computers, a probabilistic computer could process multiple states of zeros and ones at once. A probabilistic bit, or p-bit, would rapidly fluctuate between zero and one (hence, “probabilistic”), but a quantum machine’s qubit is a superposition of zero and one. On a chip, the researchers said, these fluctuations would be correlated between p-bits but entangled in qubits, Purdue officials said.

To get the p-bits to fluctuate, the researchers plan to tweak magnetic tunneling junctions, which are a commonly used memory technology, to be purposely unstable.

Since demonstrating hardware for a probabilistic computer in 2019 and obtaining a patent, the Purdue researchers have also used silicon technology to emulate a probabilistic computer with thousands of p-bits on conventional hardware available through Amazon Web Services.

“The verdict about the best implementation of a p-bit is not yet out. But we’re showing what works so that we can figure it out along the way,” said Joerg Appenzeller, Purdue’s Barry M. and Patricia L. Epstein professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Read more here

Passive quantum error correction

Researchers at University of Massachusetts Amherst have identified a way to spontaneously correct quantum errors, which naturally occur with fragile qubits.

Current quantum error-correction methods require the system to periodically check for errors and immediately fix them, but this demands hardware resources and limits the scaling of quantum computers.

With funding from the Army Research Office (ARO) and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Amherst researchers demonstrated passive quantum error correction by tailoring the friction or dissipation experienced by the qubit.

The theory had been discussed for about two decades, “but a practical way to obtain such dissipation and put it in use for quantum error correction has been a challenge,” Amherst officials said.

“Although our experiment is still a rather rudimentary demonstration … [it] raises the outlook of potentially building a useful fault-tolerant quantum computer in the mid to long run.” said Amherst Physicist Chen Wang.

“This is a very exciting accomplishment not only because of the fundamental error correction concept the team was able to demonstrate, but also because the results suggest this overall approach may amenable to implementations with high resource efficiency, said Sara Gamble, quantum information science program manager, ARO. “Efficiency is increasingly important as quantum computation systems grow in size to the scales we’ll need for Army relevant applications.”

Read more here.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at [email protected] or @sjaymiller.


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