A research team led by Daniel Lidar, holder of the Viterbi engineering chair and professor at Ming Hsieh’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been named the winner of the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) award. These highly competitive and sought-after grants support basic research projects in areas of strategic importance to the Department of Defense. The Lidar team will receive up to $6.25 million over five years.
Lidar, who is the director of the USC Center for Quantum Information Science and Technology, will collaborate with colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Iowa State University along with Dr. Robert Kosut, a quantum control expert at the company SC Solutions, and a separately funded team based in Australia led by Professor Kavan Modi to study quantum error correction and quantum control. These techniques promise to facilitate the development of quantum computers that can be exponentially faster than the best state-of-the-art classical computers for certain problems.
Quantum computers have the potential to solve problems currently impossible for classical computers, such as simulating complex chemical reactions or cracking modern cryptographic codes, Lidar said. However, one of the major challenges in building a practical quantum computer is error handling.
By researching improvements in quantum error correction and quantum control, Lidar and his team aim to overcome the challenges posed by errors and the delicate nature of quantum systems.
Errors in quantum computing can arise from various sources, such as the environment (heat, radiation or magnetic fields) or imperfections in the hardware. These errors can cause qubits, which are the fundamental units of information in quantum computing, to lose their fragile quantum state or introduce unwanted modifications, potentially ruining the computation. This is where quantum error correction comes into play.
One widely used method is the error-correcting code approach, which involves encoding information from a single qubit across multiple physical qubits. These extra qubits essentially provide redundancy so that if an error occurs, it can be detected and corrected without losing the original information.
Imagine a game on the phone, where a message is broadcast to a line of people, Lidar says. If each person only whispers to the next, mistakes can easily creep in. But if everyone repeats the message to more neighbors who share the messages received, it becomes easier to identify and correct any errors. Quantum error correction works similarly, but with qubits and quantum entanglements called entanglements rather than entangled people.
The Lidars team will examine how quantum error correction intersects with quantum control, which involves manipulating quantum systems to perform specific tasks or calculations. Quantum control focuses on precise control of qubits to ensure that desired quantum operations are performed with high precision.
The need for quantum control arises because it is critical to perform quantum operations accurately while minimizing errors and maintaining coherence of qubits, which is the ability to maintain their quantum state, Lidar said.
Achieving precise quantum control is challenging because quantum systems are so prone to errors. Lidar and his team will explore how to improve the effectiveness of quantum control approaches, including open-loop and closed-loop control, in handling unexpected errors.
Leading the charge
This is the second MURI Award team led by Lidar. The current project will build on the results of quantum computing research that he led with a MURI award in 2011.
Lidar, who also received a Guggenheim Fellowship for his pioneering work in quantum computing, notes that his research group at USC Viterbi has a long-standing collaboration with researchers from both MIT and Iowa State University , which goes back to the previous MURI Award and even earlier in the case of MIT.
It is incredibly exciting that our team has been shortlisted for this award, said Lidar. We’ve brought together some of the best people globally working at the intersection of quantum error correction and quantum control and worked long and hard to put together a competitive proposition. We were all very pleased to have our ideas selected for funding and were eager to start working on them as a team.
Published on May 2, 2023
Last updated on May 5, 2023
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