C2QA in 2022, a Year in Review
In its second year, the Brookhaven Lab-led Quantum Information Science Research Center stands tall on a sturdy foundation
February 23, 2023
Left to right: heptagon-kagome device; IBM 27-qubit chip; photoluminescence with above-bandgap excitation in layered diamond; and interior of IBM quantum computing system. Credits: (1) Houck, Princeton; (2) and (4) IBM; (3) de Leon & Lyon groups, Princeton.
A little over two years ago, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science established five National Quantum Information Science Research Centers that leverage state-of-the-art DOE facilities, national laboratories, U.S. universities, and U.S. technology companies. Brookhaven National Laboratory earned the exciting opportunity to lead one of these centers, the Co-design Center for Quantum Advantage (C2QA). C2QA’s primary focus is on building the tools necessary to create scalable, distributed, and fault-tolerant quantum computer systems, and the center has been growing, building, and working hard in order to support that mission.
Science and Technology
In the last year, the center has made strides in all three of its main thrusts: materials, software, and devices. Codesign allows for these fields to be researched in tandem, providing each field with information that can translate into useful insights across the board. With these teams establishing themselves and their research goals in C2QA’s first year, they were able to focus in an extremely productive way as the center has reached a steady state in year two.
In 2022, the team released nine open-source software packages, including packages for benchmarking, circuit cutting, and qubit device simulation. They have also initiated several successful collaborations with research and industry partners and put out an impressive number of publications. Efforts have been focused on low-density parity-check (LDPC) error correction, a way of correcting transmission errors in communication systems, and applications of quantum algorithms to DOE problems. This year also saw the development of degeneracy engineering as a new approach to efficient simulation with particular application to collider physics. Staff also developed a new approach to simulating lattice gauge theory using native bosonic modes, resulting in a clear step forward in resource requirements due to co-design across the hardware-software boundary.
This year, C2QA’s materials subthrust has been focused on deepening the understanding between materials and decoherence in superconducting qubits—the loss of quantum coherence that causes superconducting qubits to lose information—and developing new tools to probe materials for quantum systems. Highlights include a new tool that measures loss in sapphire and other potential substrates to a parts per billion level, and a new approach to measuring tantalum resonators that can distinguish several sources of loss due to unwanted two-level systems in the materials. The Center is also developing new material systems for transduction and optical interconnects in a modular quantum system, including finding new hosts for erbium atoms that could provide a telecom wavelength interconnect for quantum systems.
The devices subthrust has been focused on novel, hardware-efficient approaches to logical qubits in superconducting systems and transduction and memory devices for networked quantum computing. In a landmark result, the team has demonstrated quantum error correction well-beyond breaking even. In this breakthrough experiment, the logical lifetime of the bosonic system was more than twice as long as any other lifetime in the system. There’s also been significant research on modules for bosonic error correction, taking advantage of native linear resonators in superconducting hardware in a variety of ways. The group has put out several publications this year and has been researching the capabilities of existing devices while conceptualizing entirely new ones.
In addition to the three major research thrusts, the cross-cutting integration team demonstrated new results in quantum co-design, combining efforts across research thrusts in a way that would not be possible without a center of this scale. XCITe leadership led a team that has completed a paper for a modular quantum computer architecture based on superconducting qubits and microwave-to-optical transduction to link nodes and distribute entanglement. This pioneering work is at a level of detail not previously attempted, despite enormous activity in this space over the past 10 years.
Expanding the Center
In April 2022, the Center welcomed its newest university member, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), as a result of Thomas Searles’ new faculty appointment at the institution. Thomas has been an active Principal Investigator (PI) since the very beginning of C2QA through his former institution, Howard University, and has continued his research in the Devices thrust.
This year, C2QA introduced two of its first affiliate institutions. In March 2022, Princeton Plasma Physics Lab (PPPL) joined as an affiliate institution, contributing its expertise on plasma-assisted synthesis and doping of quantum-grade diamond. In August 2022, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NCA&T) became C2QA’s newest affiliate. NCA&T is one of the largest historically black universities (HBCU) and was sought after for their expertise in software and materials applied to quantum science and technology.
The QIS community is growing as research accelerates, and C2QA has been taking the initiative to ensure that it is leaving no stone unturned to recruit outstanding talent and ensure that opportunities within the field are accessible to all communities and institutions. Some of this starts with reaching out to students as early as high school, introducing them to this budding field and giving them a chance to connect with experts and learn more about it.
DOE also partnered with Brookhaven Lab to host a Mini-Semester internship for undergraduates on Scientific Computing and Quantum Programming. This program brought in 57 participants, 68 percent of whom were female and 56 percent of whom were underrepresented minorities (URMs). C2QA also hosted its second year of QIS 101, a virtual Quantum Computing Summer School. This intensive, hands-on course brought in 25 dedicated students, 36 percent of those being women and 44 percent URMs.
C2QA continued its virtual Quantum Thursdays lecture series, which is designed for students. The 10-lecture series averaged about 67 participants, 18 percent of whom represented minority serving institutions (MSIs). As of this year, C2QA has partnered with seven MSIs, including the recent additions of University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (N.C. A&T).
The C2QA-led Quantum Information Science Career Fair had another successful year. The event drew in nearly 1,000 registrants, 100 more than the previous year, and about half of those who registered attended—about 150 more than the previous year. About three-quarters of the attendees were students (27 percent undergrads and 39 percent graduate students) and postdocs (10 percent). To cater to the diverse makeup of attendees, several panels and breakout sessions were tailored to students and professionals of all levels and backgrounds, including sessions for candidates seeking technician and non-STEM roles in QIS.
Looking to the Future
Going forward, researchers plan to look into how to optimize qubit design for bosonic error correction and pursue a new dual-rail approach to bosonic error correction. The materials thrust will examine new superconductors and substrates that could make dramatic improvements to qubit coherence, enabling even more dramatic demonstrations at the device level. And at a software level, C2QA plans to show how using native features of the hardware can improve certain quantum simulations, decreasing the resource requirements needed to perform useful quantum algorithms.
“The center has ambitious plans for the years ahead,” said Andrew Houck, C2QA Director. “Our co-design efforts will ensure that these parallel tracks to accelerating quantum technology will be synergistic, collectively resulting in truly dramatic gains over the next few years.”
Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. 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, please visit science.energy.gov.
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