Berkeley Lab granted $115M to pursue quantum information research

Photo of a quantum computer
IBM Zurich Lab/Creative Commons
While computers use bits, quantum computers use qubits and therefore have the potential to solve far more complex calculations. (Photo by IBM Zurich Lab under CC BY-ND 2.0.)

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The U.S. Department of Energy, or DOE, pledged $115 million Wednesday to develop a research center led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory called the Quantum Systems Accelerator, or QSA.

The research center will bring together scientists from 15 institutions across North America to further develop quantum technologies, said Berkeley Lab spokesperson Laurel Kellner in an email. QSA will receive the grant over five years, according to a Berkeley Lab press release.

“The goal is to deliver prototype quantum systems that are optimized for major advances in scientific computing, discoveries in fundamental physics, and breakthroughs in materials and chemistry,” Kellner said in the email.

While computers use bits, quantum computers use qubits and therefore have the potential to solve far more complex calculations, according to Kellner.

The applications of higher-performance computing, Kellner noted, have the potential to solve “urgent” scientific challenges that are beyond the reach of contemporary computing. For example, quantum computing could potentially transform the design of solar cells and improve machine learning and pharmaceuticals, Kellner said.

QSA will partner with California and other states, community colleges and workforce boards to create learning materials to train the future quantum science workforce, according to the press release. The Quantum Economic Development Consortium, which, according to its website, is an association of stakeholders that support the growth of the U.S. quantum industry, will work with QSA to achieve these goals.

“QSA will catalyze U.S. leadership in quantum information science, and strengthen the nation’s research community to accelerate commercialization,” Kellner said in the email.

Additionally, QSA will further develop several advanced qubit technologies that are already available, including neutral atom arrays and superconducting circuits, the press release adds.

Furthermore, QSA will also work on software to apply quantum technology to other academic research.

“The center’s multidisciplinary expertise and network of world-class research facilities will enable the team to co-design the solutions needed to build working quantum systems that outperform today’s computers,” Kellner said in the email.

DOE pledged funding for Berkeley Lab at the same time it granted money to four other laboratories which, although not a part of QSA, will work to study quantum information science, according to a DOE press release.

These grants are part of a $1 billion investment from the Trump administration in artificial intelligence and quantum information science, the DOE press release adds.

“The Department of Energy is proud to be in partnership with a significant breadth of participants to support Quantum Information Science Centers around the country,”  said Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar in a DOE press release. “By allocating generous contributions from these participants we can continue to further scientific discovery through quantum technologies.”

Eric Rogers is a research and ideas reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @eric_rogers_dc.