Manufacturing Bits: Sept. 1

AI, quantum computing R&D centers; quantum devices, foundries.


AI, quantum computing R&D centers
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have announced over $1 billion in awards for the establishment of several new artificial intelligence and quantum information science (QIS) research institutes in the U.S.

Under the plan, the U.S. is launching seven new AI institutes and five QIS research institutes. As part of the effort, the AI institutes will explore new and more advanced applications in machine learning. Another institute will create two national foundries for quantum materials. Other major projects are also in the works.

In AI, the big focus is on machine learning. A subset of AI, machine learning uses advanced algorithms in systems to recognize patterns in data as well as to learn and make predictions about the information.

The NSF, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are awarding $140 million over five years to establish seven so-called AI Research Institutes. These institutes will address various fields, such as extreme weather preparedness, bioengineering, navigation, education and food systems.

The NSF-led AI Research Institutes will be hosted by universities across the country, including the University of Oklahoma, University of Texas, University of Colorado, University of Illinois, University of California at Davis, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Each university will focus on a specific technology. For example, the University of Oklahoma will develop AI techniques for weather models and predictions.

The University of Texas at Austin will explore machine learning for AI applications like self-driving cars and others. Click here for the full list of the NSF-led AI Institutes.

In addition, the DOE is awarding $625 million over five years to set up five QIS Research Centers. The QIS centers will be located at various DOE national labs, including Argonne, Brookhaven, Fermi, Oak Ridge and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories.

The effort will focus on four major areas–quantum computing, analog quantum simulation, quantum communication and quantum sensing and microscopy.

Quantum computing is different than traditional computing. In classical computing, the information is stored in bits, which can be either a “0” or “1”. In quantum computing, information is stored in quantum bits, or qubits, which can exist as a “0” or “1” or a combination of both.

The superposition state enables a quantum computer to perform millions of calculations at once, enabling it to outperform a traditional system. But quantum computing is still in its infancy and has a long way to go.

“Quantum computing is a type of computing that makes use of certain physics principles such as superposition and entanglement,” explained James Clarke, director of quantum hardware at Intel, in a recent interview. “And when certain algorithms are developed, they can provide an exponential speed up, compared to classical computing. As an example, it’s been proposed now for probably about 25 years that you can do certain types of cryptography. In a quantum computer, it would take seconds or minutes. It would take thousands or millions of years on a conventional supercomputer.”

Clarke is also a member of the National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee (NQIAC).

Quantum devices, foundries
Q-NEXT, one of the five national QIS research centers, is led by Argonne National Laboratory. Q-NEXT brings together researchers from three national laboratories, 10 universities and 10 companies.

Intel is a member of Q-NEXT. “It stretches from not only service companies, but also to chip manufacturers and semiconductor equipment suppliers,” Clarke said.

Q-NEXT will focus on three core quantum technologies—quantum communications; sensors; and processing. “(Quantum sensing is) where you would use the principles of quantum mechanics as a really good sensor for various measurements. Another would be quantum communications. It’s basically sending information over long distances. And the third is quantum computing,” Clarke said.

Processing also involves the development of “test beds” both for quantum simulators and future full-stack universal quantum computers with applications in quantum simulations, cryptanalysis and logistics optimization.

Q-NEXT will also create two national quantum foundries. One is focused on solid-state quantum technology at Argonne. The other is focused on superconducting quantum materials at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

Together, these foundries will act as a “quantum factory” to produce standard materials and devices. The group will also create a so-called “National Quantum Devices Database” to promote the industrial development of next-generation quantum devices.

Intel itself is focused on quantum computing, where is has been actively developing various devices for the technology.

“Most of the industrial players have carved out areas that synergizes with their internal programs. In the case of Intel, we are particularly interested in a quantum device. We call it a qubit. A qubit is the equivalent of a transistor. Our version of a qubit actually looks like a transistor. We call it a spin qubit in silicon,” Clarke said. “We will be working with Q-Next on a few different areas of research. One is making spin qubits in silicon.”

Intel is also putting together a small system. This in turn would allow Intel to develop the architecture and software based on spin qubits.

More QIS
There are other QIS efforts. Led by Brookhaven National Laboratory, the so-called Co-design Center for Quantum Advantage is building the fundamental tools necessary to create fault-tolerant quantum computer systems.

Another effort, called the Superconducting Quantum Materials and Systems, or SQMS, Center will focus on optimizing the lifetime of quantum states, known as coherence time, which is the length of time that a qubit can effectively process information.

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