Goleta lab focuses on developing error-corrected quantum computer
Google is on a mission to create an error-corrected quantum computer that would outperform any supercomputer ever created and streamline solutions for some of the world’s biggest problems.
And that mission is on its way to completion right here in the Santa Barbara area.
Last month, Google unveiled its new Quantum AI research campus in Goleta.
The brand new facility is Google’s new headquarters for quantum computational research, upgrading the headquarters from its old space near M. Special Brewing Co.
From the outside, the facility looks like a typical office building. But on the inside, an experimental lab with state-of-the-art equipment is home to some of the most advanced computational research that will take place in the next decade.
It’s within this new facility that researchers hope to create the world’s most elite problem solving machine. Their research centers on the development of quantum computers, which utilize quantum bits or “qubits” that have the capacity to solve complex problems, such as how molecules behave.
Qubits have the power to mimic the quantum nature of molecules and atoms by existing in a complex mix of zeros and ones, similar to the way atoms exist in multiple states all at once.
This new technology can even reimagine the work of a traditional chemist, allowing scientists to examine, for example, the bonding energy of a molecule without ever having to create a physical model in the lab by hand. With this, chemists have the potential to discover and map a realm of the molecular world that has previously been untouched.
An error-corrected quantum computer would accelerate the research process for chemists, Eric Lucero, the lead engineer for Google Quantum AI, told the News-Press. He explained that by using a quantum computer, chemists can map molecules and run tests for molecules that have not been mapped before.
According to researchers, using a quantum computer to map and study molecules not only saves researchers time and energy, it also allows them to find solutions to many of the world’s problems faster.
For example, researchers say the new technology could be used to discover how to create a better battery using less rare earth materials or learn how to feed the world’s population by making fertilizer more efficiently. It could also lead to the development of new medicines and improve optimization techniques that would, in turn, improve artificial intelligence.
“This is an opportunity to build a new computational capability for humanity that everybody would benefit from,” Mr. Lucero said.
In 2019, researchers from Google successfully showcased that a quantum system could be built and that even a small quantum computer could outperform the largest supercomputer on earth.
Now, knowing what’s possible, researchers are on a quest to develop an error-corrected quantum computer in the next 10 years.
This kind of quantum computer would essentially enable the device to run perpetually and correct its own errors, similar to how classical computers can correct their own errors. The current quantum model has a limited capacity that can only handle so much information at a time before it quits.
Though quantum computers will likely become increasingly common and more accessible in the next decade, Mr. Lucero said he does not expect the new technology to do away with traditional computing altogether.
In fact, he expects the two systems to work together in harmony.
“(A quantum computer) is not going to replace your iPhone or your Mac at home,” Mr. Lucero said. “It’s actually, in some ways, I like to think of more of a symbiotic relationship, where these two systems will actually benefit from one another. They won’t replace (each other) — you’ll use a quantum computer for specific kinds of problems.
“An example of such might be to help with learning and machine learning, where we can actually offload moments to do training, and do things faster on a quantum computer that might otherwise take a lot of resources.”
While researchers project that this next development is nearly a decade away, they are hopeful the new technology will inspire the next generation of innovators to continue to advance computing in decades to come.
“(The next generation) is going to be exposed to a quantum computer at a very young age,” Mr. Lucero said. “It’s going to be the kind of thing that, (similar to how) we’ve seen people who have grown up with cell phones all the time, and they will have grown up with quantum computers. They will know how to program on those systems, and the intuition that they will have will be a different intuition, because it will now have been one that explored a quantum computing landscape.
“That, to me, is just the beginning of a whole set of new computer scientists, quantum computer scientists.”