Pasqal is working on a quantum processing unit specifically designed for simulation.
Simulation using synthetic quantum systems is a potential tool for addressing challenging NP-Hard problems (non-deterministic polynomial-time hardness), which is a task where traditional numerical approaches frequently fail. Pasqal, a French company founded in 2019 by five scientists—Christophe Jurczak, Alain Aspect, Antoine Browaeys, Thierry Lahaye, and CEO Georges-Olivier Reymond—developing a quantum processing unit (QPU) particularly suited for simulation. Pasqal also announced a collaboration with Nvidia to build a Quantum Computing Center of Excellence, featuring a cluster of 10 Nvidia DGX A100 systems with Nvidia InfiniBand networking to enhance its portfolio of solutions. Moreover, they received Usine Nouvelle’s Start-Up of the Year 2021 prize, during the Assises de L’Industrie event in Paris, which focused on the theme “Rebuilding the French Industry.”
Smart charging of electric vehicles, network design, network management, network dependability, and process innovation are only a few of the issues which can be successfully addressed. Today, quantum processors can be built on a variety of platforms, including trapped ions, superconducting circuits, quantum dots, and neutral atoms. Whatever method is used, designers must overcome two major obstacles: scaling up the ensemble size while maintaining high-quality control over the parameters, and verifying the outputs for these complex and outstanding systems. Neutral atom device topologies are one of a kind in many aspects, not only when compared to classical devices in general, but also with respect to quantum analogues. In comparison to other quantum devices, neutral atom platforms, for instance, can easily achieve quantum registers with a larger number of qubits, and higher connectivity.
Quantum Simulation is the most promising use of Pasqal’s QPU, in which the quantum processor is utilized to obtain knowledge about a quantum system of interest. It seems reasonable to employ a quantum system as a computational resource for quantum issues, as Richard Feynman pointed out in the 20th century. Neutral atom quantum processors will aid pure scientific discovery, and there are several sectors of application at the industrial level, such as the creation of novel materials for energy storage and transport, or chemical computations for drug development.
“At Pasqal, we are not only scientists, we are not only academic, we industrialize our technology. By working with quantum technology, we want to build and sell a product which is reliable, and which helps to solve complex industrial problems in many contexts,” said Reymond.
Among Pasqal’s customers is EDF, the French electricity utility. In the energy sector, Pasqal is working with EDF to develop innovative solutions for smart mobility (see Figure 1). We can think, for example, about a city with a large number of electrical vehicles (such as a fleet) that need to be charged at the end of every day. Of course, this is a complex problem since we need to schedule the recharging and manage the future need in terms of electrical power. According to Pasqal, the solution to this problem, also known as smart charging, cannot be found with conventional computers, especially when it scales. However, this issue can be solved using a quantum processor.
“We are building a quantum processor based on the neutral atom technology. Our qubits are atoms. That means we are manipulating atoms one by one to store and encode the quantum information,” said Georges-Olivier Reymond.
Recent breakthroughs have allowed us to achieve previously unheard-of system sizes, with quantum registers containing more than 190 atoms. This large number of interacting quantum particles makes it possible to simulate the dynamics of a many-body quantum system much beyond the capability of current classical approaches.
According to Pasqal, this approach offers many advantages. Firstly, the setup can work at room temperature and it does not need to be cooled down. Secondly, all the items are structurally identical, since they are built by nature. Thirdly, the quantum computers developed by Pasqal consume very little energy, as much as four hair dryers. Finally, Pasqal’s qubits can be controlled using light, a very powerful tool that can be tailored to almost any need.
To do that, Pasqal uses a single laser which is then split in several laser beams. That means this solution is highly scalable since it allows the control of hundreds of qubits. As proven in some published in peer-review papers, this technology is already able to control up to 200 qubits. Figure 2 shows a 14 x 14 filled array of atoms, corresponding to 196 qubits.
“The quality of the quantum operation is directly related to the quality of the laser beam, in terms of frequency stabilization for example. We are using the best laser of our class and we are also implementing some stabilization techniques in order to guarantee this high efficiency of the quantum operation,” said Reymond.
Pasqal said that its processors can already solve severe computational problems that are inefficient for traditional computers, in addition to simulating scientific processes. The native resolution of a well-known graph problem, maximum independent set (MIS), is a good illustration. When the size of the graph grows larger, this problem, which has immediate applications in network design and finance, becomes difficult to solve on a traditional computer. An ensemble of interacting cold neutral atoms can be used as a quantum resource to solve the MIS issue, with each atom representing a vertex of the graph under consideration.
Besides smart charging, there are other energy-related problems, such as wind farms, which can be effectively solved through a simulation run on a quantum processor. The problem statement could be: how to simulate and optimize the efficiency of a wind farm production under different conditions of wind, number of wind turbines, and different layouts?
“Having these atoms simulating a wind farm, it’s something which is absolutely unexpected. We believe that the energy sector is the one that will be the most impacted by quantum technology,” said Reymond.
Pasqal is currently proceeding with the assembly of its first 200 qubits computer, but the company knows it is probably not enough to achieve an industrial quantum advantage. At Pasqal, scientists think they will need to reach 1,000 qubits in order to provide this kind of performance, and therefore they are working on increasing the number of qubits as part of the company roadmap.
“It is a big challenge, but we are on track to deliver 1,000 qubits by 2023 using a single processor. What the customers are also asking us is support training and applications. That’s because it is a new technology, and they need to be supported along that quantum journey. We are providing them a turnkey solution, the hardware with the full-stack solutions, and on top of that the applications,” said Reymond.
This article was originally published on EE Times.
Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio holds a Ph.D. in Physics and is a telecommunication engineer and journalist. He has worked on various international projects in the field of gravitational wave research. He collaborates with research institutions to design data acquisition and control systems for space applications. He is the author of several books published by Springer, as well as numerous scientific and technical publications on electronics design.