Brookhaven Lab to Lead Quantum Research Center

This multidisciplinary center is one of five awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct basic research in quantum information science

C2QA logo

Led by Brookhaven Lab, the Co-design Center for Quantum Advantage seeks to reach quantum advantage—the point where a quantum computer outperforms a classical one on a useful task—in scientific computations by simultaneously designing hardware and software.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science has selected Brookhaven National Laboratory to lead one of five National Quantum Information Science (QIS) Research Centers. Supporting the National Quantum Initiative Act, these interdisciplinary, multi-institutional centers will facilitate the advancement of QIS technology. Realizing the full potential of quantum-based applications in computing, communication, and sensing will benefit national security, economic competitiveness, and leadership in scientific discovery.

Brookhaven Lab will lead the Co-design Center for Quantum Advantage (C2QA), which will focus on quantum computing. Comprising several national labs, research centers, universities, and industry, the C2QA team will build the fundamental tools necessary for the United States to create quantum computers that provide a true advantage over their classical counterparts.   

World-leading experts in QIS, materials science, computer science, and theory will work together to resolve performance issues with today’s quantum computers by simultaneously designing software and hardware (co-design). Their goal is to achieve quantum advantage in computations for high-energy and nuclear physics, chemistry, materials science, condensed matter physics, and other fields. Quantum advantage refers to a quantum computer outperforming a classical computer on a useful task.

“A key feature of our effort is a singular focus on co-design: a tight partnership between materials discovery, device development, system integration, and algorithms synthesis—all driven by benchmarks and applications to real science problems and enabled by a team experienced at crossing disciplinary boundaries,” said C2QA principal investigator Isaac Chuang, professor of electrical engineering and computer science and professor of physics at MIT.

“Today’s announcement underscores the United States’ leadership in creating a quantum industry,” said Dario Gil, director of IBM Research, one of the C2QA partners. “The National Quantum Initiative brings together the best of the private and public sectors, combining skills, expertise, and research to accelerate our ambitious mission to reach quantum advantage.”

Quantum computers have the potential to solve scientific and other kinds of problems that would be practically impossible for traditional supercomputers. However, the current generation—called noisy intermediate-scale quantum—suffers from a high error rate because of noise, faults, and loss of quantum coherence. Quantum bits (qubits), the information-storing elements of quantum computers, are very delicate. Vibrations, temperature changes, electromagnetic waves, and other interactions between qubits and the environment or material defects in qubits can cause quantum decoherence. In quantum decoherence, these errors cause the qubits to lose their information, and the calculation cannot be completed.

“The biggest challenge in the field today is to make quantum computers truly robust and scalable,” said C2QA principal investigator Robert Schoelkopf, Yale Sterling Professor of Applied Physics and director of the Yale Quantum Institute. “By combining materials science, improved devices, and algorithmic innovations, C2QA will develop the science to solve this problem and ensure that the United States leads the way into the era of useful quantum computing.”

Through materials, devices, and software co-design efforts, the team will understand and control material properties to extend coherence time, design devices to generate more robust qubits, optimize algorithms to target specific scientific applications, and develop error-correction solutions. To achieve these goals, they will leverage materials characterization facilities at Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN) and National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II), device design and fabrication capabilities in industry and academia, and IBM’s Qiskit open-source framework for writing quantum programs and its Q Prime prototype quantum computer.

“Because of the highly interdisciplinary nature of building a practical quantum computer, no individual scientist can have all the necessary expertise,” said C2QA Deputy Director Andrew Houck, professor of electrical engineering at Princeton and director of the Princeton Quantum Initiative. “C2QA will unite scientists from all areas of quantum computing to focus on this singular challenge. Bringing together academic and industry experts and the world-class facilities at Brookhaven’s NSLS-II and CFN will enable us to understand the fundamental limits that materials impose on quantum computers.”

“Achieving these objectives will set the foundation for a new generation of quantum computers,” said C2QA Director Steven Girvin, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics at Yale University and a dual appointee in Brookhaven’s Energy and Photon Sciences Directorate. “Technologies emerging from C2QA that are scaled up by industrial partners will provide a quantum computing platform with error correction able to address classically intractable calculations essential to DOE mission science.”

James Misewich, the associate laboratory director for Energy and Photon Sciences at Brookhaven, will oversee C2QA. In addition to his leadership role as deputy director, Houck will ensure the three thrusts (materials, devices, and software) are integrated and oversee an outreach and workforce development program for the center to provide students with QIS educational opportunities. Michael Bebon, a senior advisor at NSLS-II, will manage operations.

Total planned funding for the center is $115 million over five years, with $15 million in Fiscal 2020 dollars and outyear funding contingent on congressional appropriations.

The CFN and NSLS-II are both DOE Office of Science User Facilities. The partnering institutions on C2QA are Ames Laboratory, Caltech, City College of New York, Columbia University, Harvard University, Howard University, IBM, Johns Hopkins University, MIT, Montana State University, National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Ames Research Center, Northwestern University, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Princeton University, State University of New York Polytechnic Institute, Stony Brook University, Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, University of California-Santa Barbara, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, University of Pittsburgh, University of Washington, Virginia Tech, and Yale University.

Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit

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2020-17392  |  INT/EXT  |  Newsroom