The Quantum Systems Accelerator (QSA) is a U.S. National Quantum Information Science Research Center established in August 2020 and funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science. QSA is composed of 15 partner institutions—universities and national laboratories—bringing together pioneers of many of today’s unique quantum information science (QIS) and engineering capabilities. Led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), with Sandia National Laboratories (Sandia Labs) as the lead partner, 250+ QSA researchers are catalyzing U.S. leadership in a fast-growing field that seeks solutions to the Nation’s and the world’s most pressing problems by harnessing the laws of quantum mechanics.
As part of its mission to explore the technologies required to bridge the gap between today’s NISQ (Noisy Intermediate-Scale Quantum) systems and those that will be fully fault-tolerant and capable of impactful science applications, QSA leverages state-of-the-art existing national facilities and the DOE’s robust history of pushing the frontiers of basic science and scientific computing. QSA also collaborates with various industry and academic partners worldwide while preparing the Nation’s increasingly diverse quantum workforce, starting as early as high school.
Since its founding, QSA has co-designed powerful programmable quantum prototypes that maximize the performance of current noisy quantum hardware in three major platforms: neutral atoms, trapped ions, and superconducting circuits. Furthermore, it has advanced the algorithms and platform-specific applications specifically constructed for near-term, imperfect hardware for scientific computing, materials science, and fundamental physics. These scientific achievements will continue accelerating the technology transfer from labs and universities to the marketplace and prepare the Nation’s workforce and industry to harness the capabilities of quantum computing.
The NISQ era describes the field’s current imperfect hardware, where the stability of quantum processors and the coherence time of quantum bits (qubits) are short-lived. Errors and decoherence decrease the system’s ability to perform useful computations. Thus, a key challenge is simultaneously manipulating the quantum states of a growing number of qubits with precision on such short timescales. However, a mismatch exists between state-of-the-art NISQ applications – quantum algorithms – and the available quantum technology. Algorithms are platform-agnostic and intended for ideal, error-corrected devices. In contrast, even the most advanced quantum hardware runs only a limited number of gates with modest fidelity. Quantum applications require many entangled qubits and high-fidelity logical gate operations.
QSA seeks to demonstrate quantum computational advantage by developing platform-specific and noise-aware algorithms with varying degrees of noise protection. To accomplish this task, QSA leverages today’s NISQ systems and co-designs the hardware and software across the different platforms. Co-design is at the heart of QSA’s mission to accelerate progress from discovery to prototype development and applied research. The impact of innovation in one of these platforms informs others, and it can optimize the overall result of the application and the overhead on quantum algorithm design across the Center, perhaps even across different technologies. In addition to gains in prototype development since QSA’s founding, significant progress has been reported in all technical areas currently being advanced at QSA.
To realize QSA’s vision, the team is focused on three cross cutting technical areas:
One of the critical open questions with imperfect hardware is whether practical quantum advantages can be obtained for relevant scientific applications and what level of error mitigation would be required if such gains are possible. QSA investigates to what extent specific quantum platforms are valuable for particular quantum applications and how to accelerate the development of platform-specific applications.
A key component of more powerful quantum machines is a qubit system with several control knobs and long-lived coherence. Progress in all three QSA hardware platforms — neutral atom, trapped-ion, and superconducting circuit — has been made in realizing new robust functionality.
In quantum systems, electronic controls must be scalable and support high-fidelity gates. QSA researchers are designing and building cutting-edge hardware to control their experimental systems while liaising with computer scientists and engineers developing high-performance electronics for classical systems.
Quantum Ecosystem Stewardship
QSA seamlessly integrates the broad research network from its 15 members into a cohesive, collaborative Center that propels the field forward in new ways. To build a connected, engaged, and diverse research community, QSA frequently engages with industry, government labs, and international research programs with a commercial focus on the quantum industry, including the Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Federal Laboratory Consortium in the United States. In addition, QSA has hosted and co-organized industry-focused roundtables and events to hear directly from leaders and investors in major publicly traded companies and innovative startups such as IBM, Intel, IonQ, Keysight Technologies, Toptica Photonics, Q-CTRL, and Bleximo.
For additional information on the work being conducted by QSA please visit https://quantumsystemsaccelerator.org/