Some math problems are so complicated that they can bog down even the world’s most powerful supercomputers. But a wild new frontier in computing that applies the rules of the quantum realm offers a different approach.

A new study led by a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), published in the journal Scientific Reports, details how a quantum computing technique called “quantum annealing” can be used to solve problems relevant to fundamental questions in nuclear physics about the subatomic building blocks of all matter. It could also help answer other vexing questions in science and industry, too.


Chia Cheng “Jason” Cheng, a RIKEN iTHEMS fellow, said: “The simplicity of current quantum annealers is that the solution is classical – akin to doing algebra with a quantum computer. You can check and understand what you are doing with a quantum annealer in a straightforward manner, without the massive overhead of verifying the solution classically.”


Chang’s team used a commercial quantum annealer located in Burnaby, Canada, called the D-Wave 2000Q that features superconducting electronic elements chilled to extreme temperatures to carry out its calculations.


As quantum computers are equipped with more qubits that allow them to solve more complex problems more quickly, they can also potentially lead to energy savings by reducing the use of far larger supercomputers that could take far longer to solve the same problems.


While it will be an exciting next step to work to apply the algorithm to solve nuclear physics problems, “This algorithm is much more general than just for nuclear science,” Chang noted. “It would be exciting to find new ways to use these new computers.”


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