Quantum Computing Company, Rigetti, Selected by US Department of Energy To Develop Quantum Simulation For Fusion Energy

After a selection through competitive peer review under the DOE Funding Opportunity Announcement for Quantum Information Science Research for Fusion Energy Sciences and a companion National Laboratory Announcement, Rigetti Computing, a Berkeley-based quantum computing company, was awarded a three-year contract to develop a quantum simulation for fusion energy. 

The $3.1 million awards from the U.S. Department of Energy comes through as part of an initiative sponsored by the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences (FES) and will be a collaboration between Rigetti Computing, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the University of Southern California to understand plasma physics, the science underpinning fusion energy. The project also seeks to identify the ability of quantum computers to outperform classical computers in plasma simulation.

The goal of fusion energy research is to use the same principle as the sun to produce a commercially viable fusion reactor that can be an alternative clean and affordable energy source. If a sustainable energy source from fusion plasmas becomes a reality, it could create important economic, environmental, and national security benefits.

 “The pursuit of fusion energy is one of the most challenging programs of scientific research and development that has ever been undertaken. Because the fusion mission is so computationally intensive, partnering with Rigetti will bring their quantum computing resources to bear on research designed to help create a path towards a safe, clean, and environmentally sustainable future,”

Patricia Falcone, Deputy Director for Science and Technology at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

“Rigetti quantum computers are ideal for this type of work where computational speed is the current bottleneck to progress. By combining our fast superconducting quantum processors with the high-performance co-processing and unique programming capabilities available on Rigetti Quantum Cloud Services, the project team can approach the underlying fusion models using powerful capabilities like hybrid quantum-classical solvers and advanced compiler optimizations,”

Matt Reagor, Director of Engineering for Rigetti.

The collaboration will make use of quantum computing to explore and advance the fields of fusion energy and quantum information science. The project will produce the first exploration of carefully engineered multi-qubit gates and interactions for simulating plasma dynamics on a quantum computer. It will also develop and apply control pulse engineering and dynamic error suppression techniques that are expected to enable long-duration simulations with high effective gate depth. 

The project will leverage and extend QUIL and associated programming libraries, such as Quil-T. Quil is a quantum instruction language (from which we derive the name Quil-T) that was originally developed by Rigetti Computing to program their cloud-based quantum computer. As an extension, Quil-T is time-domain pulse programming for hybrid quantum-classical computing. The language and its associated compiler are open source and will be made available for anyone to use for any purpose, including the exploration of quantum applications in fusion energy.

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