Open source EDA tool simplifies quantum device design

March 29, 2021 // By Rich Pell
Open source EDA tool simplifies quantum device design
Open-source quantum computing framework Qiskit has released electronic design automation (EDA) software for superconducting quantum computers.

Qiskit Metal is offered as the first EDA tool specifically for quantum computers, aimed at helping the community innovate and design superconducting quantum devices with ease and to their own specifications using either pre-built or custom components. Previously, say the developers, designing and simulating a quantum device has been a time-intensive, multi-step "artisanal" process spread across several disconnected software suites.

"We hope that Qiskit Metal will be indispensable for researchers working to improve qubits and couplers or developing new, creative quantum technology," they say. "We hope that Qiskit Metal can also be a useful educational tool for those looking to better grasp quantum hardware."

The Qiskit Metal design process begins with a concept - the parameters desired for a specific device's Hamiltonian, which is the operator that describes energy and its quantum properties. For example, this could be a device with a particular qubit frequency or qubit-qubit coupling. The user would then guess at a first layout, a process that takes only minutes in Qiskit Metal thanks to its component library.

Metal then performs an automatic classical analysis to determine the electromagnetic properties of the device, and then a quantum analysis to return information such as the device's energy eigenspectrum. The user can then compare the result of the quantum analysis to the target Hamiltonian and tweak as needed.

"We hope to make Metal's learning curve easy," say the developers. "Even without a background in typical EDA software, a new user can draw up a design as if building with construction toys, while an experienced user can produce custom components in order to devise a state-of-the-art chip."

In earlier testing of the tool, say the developers, researchers at IBM, a team at the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, and even new users at the Qiskit Hackathon Korea were able to design and analyze quantum processors faster than ever before. For example, members of the IBM Quantum team used Qiskit Metal in order to produce a five-qubit quantum processor, called Tsuru, for an upcoming quantum testbed in a collaboration between IBM and the University of Tokyo.

The team began with a set of target parameters, such as qubit coupling strengths, rough frequency ranges, and other values in order to ensure that Tsuru would be compatible with specific testbed experiments. The entire design process was completed over WebEx in just a few hours, and the flexibility of the tool allowed for easy generation of different processor designs before settling on an optimal layout.

Tsuru, say the devlelopers, demonstrated that Metal could be suitable for those who need quick access to a custom quantum processor in order perform a multitude of quantum experiments. Metal's libraries provide easily implemented building blocks so that a group can focus on their desired research of, say, improved microwave packaging or novel couplers, while leveraging previously studied qubit designs.

"As devices grow in complexity and variety, we hope Qiskit Metal can help make the process seamless," say the developers. "In this way, Metal can help enable and empower folks to take on quantum hardware challenges that have long been viewed as too complex."

The developers say they expect Metal, which is still in early alpha, to mature alongside the field of superconducting quantum computing overall, and to continually incorporate future quantum hardware and modeling advances. For more, see "Circuit quantum electrodynamics (cQED) with modular quasi-lumped models."


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