Quantum computing has been a buzzword in the scientific community for quite some time now. Researchers have been trying to develop quantum algorithms to simulate various processes, including those involved in industrial chemical processes. The good news is that quantum scientists at Riverlane and Johnson Matthey have recently developed an algorithm that can simulate the catalysts used in many industrial chemical processes. The results are promising, as this algorithm could reduce the environmental impact of fuel cells, petrochemicals, and hydrogen production.
The researchers published their findings in Physical Review Research. the capability of an error-corrected quantum computer to replicate the behavior of nickel oxide and palladium oxide. These two materials are essential in heterogeneous catalysis, a process used to create a broad range of chemicals and fuels.
Dr. Aleksei Ivanov, a quantum scientist at Riverlane and the lead author of the paper, stated that the algorithm developed by their team enables the quantum simulation of large solid-state systems with runtimes that are typically associated with much smaller molecular systems. This advancement opens up the path for conducting feasible simulations of materials on quantum computers equipped with error-correction capabilities in the future.
The development of this algorithm is significant because some materials are challenging to simulate on ordinary computers due to their complex, quantum nature. Quantum computers can help overcome this limitation. However, until now, most of the research in the field has focused on the simulation of molecules, not materials. Dr. Rachel Kerber, Senior Scientist at Johnson Matthey, believes that quantum simulations could provide a means for researchers to model many materials that are often of great interest to researchers in catalysis and materials science in general.
The scientists utilized principles originating from classical computational condensed matter research to create the novel quantum algorithm. Dr. Christoph Sunderhauf, Senior Quantum scientist at Riverlane and co-author of the paper, explained that the team asked themselves how they could modify an existing molecular algorithm to take advantage of the material’s structure. The modifications to the existing quantum algorithm reduced the quantum resource requirements, resulting in future quantum computers requiring far fewer qubits and a reduced circuit depth compared to prior quantum algorithms without any modification.
Despite the potential of quantum computing, today’s quantum computers have a few hundred quantum bits (qubits) at most, limiting their usefulness. Despite the promising potential of quantum computers, they need to be drastically scaled up to achieve error correction and enable a wide range of practical applications. In order to speed up the process of error correction, Riverlane is working on developing an operating system for error-corrected quantum computers. This system will involve a control mechanism to manage and calibrate the millions of qubits needed for error correction, as well as fast decoders to prevent errors from spreading and causing disruptions in calculations.
Once error-corrected quantum computers are available, it will be necessary to have fault-tolerant quantum algorithms ready to execute on them. Dr. Ivanov stressed the importance of working towards identifying practical applications for quantum computers. If quantum algorithms continue to advance, it may become unnecessary to construct an enormous quantum computer for practical purposes.
In conclusion, the development of the quantum algorithm that simulates the catalysts used in industrial chemical processes is a significant breakthrough. This algorithm could help reduce the environmental impact of fuel cells, petrochemicals, and hydrogen production. The researchers at Riverland and Johnson Matthey have shown how quantum computing can be used to simulate materials, which is an important step toward unlocking the full potential of quantum computing. Riverlane’s efforts to build the operating system for error-corrected quantum computers are also promising, as these machines could unlock applications across multiple industries.