Applied Quantum Computing
The new Center for Applied Quantum Computing (ZAQC) at Fraunhofer IGD commenced work at the beginning of May 2022. It opens up outstanding opportunities for researchers to harness the potential of quantum computers for industry, and to promote the adoption of this ground-breaking technology.
Quantum computing is revolutionary in nature, and will bring huge benefits. Conventional computers are able differentiate between one and zero. Quantum computers support multiple states simultaneously, and can execute mathematical operations not just in sequence but concurrently. As a result, they far outperform their conventional counterparts for certain tasks. This technology can potentially be employed in a broad variety of applications in industry and the business world. It can help to simulate highly complex events—for instance, in the chemical industry, or to manage billions of processes in real time.
But before this vision can be turned into a reality, quantum computers must first become more powerful and more error-tolerant. And they need to be tailored to the specific use case, i.e. through corresponding programming. “We need to know what is possible with quantum computing, and how it can be made possible, and what scientific and industrial issues it can be applied to,” says Prof. Dieter W. Fellner, Director of Fraunhofer IGD and Head of the Center for Applied Quantum Computing. ZAQC’s mission is to answer these fundamental questions. The State of Hesse is supporting their efforts with funding of more than three million euros. The center will also be part of Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft’s nationwide Competence Network Quantum Computing.
Professor Fellner, quantum computing could be at the core of ground-breaking future technological developments. Is that how you see it, too?
Yes. Quantum computing will grant us many insights that would otherwise be scarcely possible. So, in this respect I share the sense of euphoria. But we are very much at the outset. Currently, we are not able to say in concrete terms how we can put quantum computing to beneficial use—neither in Germany, nor internationally. We need reliable information on what is possible, and how we can achieve it.
And that is the role of the new Center for Applied Quantum Computing (ZAQC), at Fraunhofer IGD, correct?
Correct. We want to identify the potential of quantum computing for resolving industrial challenges, and we want to make this market of possibilities accessible to the world of business. Our focus is initially on the practical benefits for fields such as materials science, chemicals, logistics, financial services, and cybersecurity. We are investigating how this technology can be leveraged for concrete scenarios, and are working to enable companies to make use of our insights. Just consider, for instance, the significant new applications with regard to analyzing processes, the simulation of reaction chains, or the evaluation, protection and administration of data. This is set to have a significant impact on product development, quality control, risk assessment and traffic planning.
Presumably, the situation is similar with regard to the development of medications?
I am hoping that quantum computing, aided by our research, will be able to efficiently identify the required composition of medications, and to determine their efficacy. Laboratory research could then concentrate exclusively on the active ingredients with the greatest promise. This would be a real breakthrough—for example, for the development of vaccines.
At ZAQC, one of your goals is to develop middleware that would streamline the programming of quantum computers.
We are working on algorithms that not only run on dedicated quantum computers, but also on as many current and future computers as possible, in Germany and elsewhere. Only then will it be possible to convert the abstract, but enormous potential of quantum computing into tangible value added for our society and economy.
In addition to concrete applications, you are continuing research work on the development of quantum computing per se …
The two go hand in hand. Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft’s Competence Network Quantum Computing gives us a superb basis for these activities. The network comprises regional centers of excellence in a total of seven federal states. Each Fraunhofer node in the network has its own research focus. But we have a shared goal: to research and develop new technological solutions in the field of quantum computing that enable us to turn this fantastic technology into a source of broad benefits.