Constructing a quantum computer in Europe

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research has donated €29m to build a novel quantum computer in Europe.

The potential advantages of quantum computers are unparalleled, and their capabilities go far beyond those of classical computers. For example, quantum computers offer far more in terms of computing speeds. This is of particular importance when utilising quantum computers to solve optimisation problems.

In order to exploit this promise, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research is funding a project to build a quantum computer capable of solving problems relevant for the industry with around €25m. The total project volume adds up to approximately €29m. Of this, €7m will go to the Department of Physics at the Technische Universität Kaiserslautern (TUK).

Solving complex computational problems

Numerous computational problems with practical applications force the highest-performance computers to their limits. This is highlighted in optimisation problems like route planning with many stopovers, the optimisation of interlocking work and production processes, the calculation of the ideal climb of an aeroplane, or the planning of resource-saving logistics processes for supply chains and transhipment points.

As part of the race to develop a quantum computer that can be utilised for practical applications, scientists at TU Kaiserslautern have now accomplished a great deal. They obtained an exceptional large-scale project to build such a computer at TU Kaiserslautern.

Over the next five years, they will build a functional quantum processor based on so-called Rydberg atoms alongside colleagues from the University of Hamburg and the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM, as well as industrial partners.

The objective of this project is to optimise industrially relevant problems. The quantum computer will be situated in the newly built research building “Laboratory for Advanced Spin Engineering” (LASE) on the university campus.

Optimising with quantum computers

Quantum computers can far exceed the performance of classic computers because they function completely differently. Instead of classical bits with a value of either 0 or 1, they use quantum bits (qubits) that can have both the value of 0 and 1 simultaneously.

“As a result, they have immense potential to tackle problems that are unsolvable for classical computers. In particular, they promise to solve important problems in logistics and process optimisation. They are a central key technology of the 21st century”, explained Professor Dr Herwig Ott, group leader at the Department of Physics at TUK, who leads the project with his physics colleagues Professor Dr Artur Widera and Dr Thomas Niederprüm.

Professor Widera added: “We are proud to have acquired this forward-looking project for the city, region, and the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, which will bring international visibility to the Kaiserslautern location. It is a great success that we can now bring the expertise in quantum technology and quantum physics that we have built up over the past ten years in our collaborative research centres to this fascinating project.”

Real life applications

Dr Thomas Niederprüm said: “With the quantum computer, we want to test how shipping routes for goods logistics or supply chains can be improved and made more sustainable overall so that energy can be saved and thus contribute to climate protection.”

Other possible applications include the calculation of new active ingredients for drugs or the optimisation of insurance algorithms. “In the long term, we also expect a positive impact on the regional industry, since the quantum computer can be operated completely externally and optimisation problems arise in many places,” explained Professor Ott.

University President Professor Dr Arnd Poetzsch-Heffter concluded: “With the construction of a quantum computer, we are one of the few research locations worldwide to develop this new technology. This is an outstanding success and of enormous strategic importance for the entire location. I warmly congratulate all those involved.

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