NSF launches project to create first practical quantum computer

August 07, 2018 // By Rich Pell
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has launched an effort to accelerate the development of a practical quantum computer, which, it says, promises to dramatically advance U.S. leadership in quantum computing.

The foundation has awarded $15 million over five years to the multi-institution Software-Tailored Architecture for Quantum co-design (STAQ) project. Focused on the Practical Fully-Connected Quantum Computer Challenge , the project will involve physicists, computer scientists, and engineers from Duke University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts University, University of California-Berkeley, University of Chicago, University of Maryland, and the University of New Mexico.

"Quantum computers will change everything about the technology we use and how we use it, and we are still taking the initial steps toward realizing this goal," says NSF Director France Córdova. "Developing the first practical quantum computer would be a major milestone. By bringing together experts who have outlined a path to a practical quantum computer and supporting its development, NSF is working to take the quantum revolution from theory to reality."

Currently, quantum computers are mostly proofs of concept, demonstrating the feasibility of certain principles, says NSF. While they have grown in complexity as researchers' ability to control and construct quantum systems has improved, they have not yet solved a computational problem for which the answer was unknown.

The STAQ project's integrated approach to developing a practical quantum computer will rely on finding new algorithms based on optimization and scientific computing problems, improving quantum computer hardware, and developing software tools that optimize algorithm performance for the specific machine in development. The STAQ researchers will focus on four primary goals:

  • Develop a quantum computer with a sufficiently large number of quantum bits (qubits) to solve a challenging calculation.
  • Ensure that every qubit interacts with all other qubits in the system, critical for solving fundamental problems in physics.
  • Integrate software, algorithms, devices and systems engineering.
  • Involve equal input from experimentalists, theorists, engineers, and computer scientists.

"The first truly effective quantum computer will not emerge from one researcher working in a single discipline," says NSF Chief Operating Officer Fleming Crim. "Quantum computing requires experts from a range of fields,

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