IARPA wants a quantum leap

IBM's design for a square lattice quantum computing chip (Photo: IBM)

WHAT: The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity is looking for contractors to help with its quantum computing Logical Qubits (LogiQ) Program.

WHY: IARPA, the research arm of the country's intelligence agencies, is searching for ideas to advance practical quantum computer technology that could revolutionize data processing.

IARPA's July 2 request for proposals is a next step in the quest to develop a new quantum bit (qubit) circuit design. Quantum computers use quantum mechanics to process huge amounts of data, which would provide a substantial leap forward in processing capabilities compared to current digital-based computers. And the intelligence community has been pushing for a new computing model to tackle its exploding data processing needs.

Quantum computing, however, is inherently unstable because qubits can "flip" unexpectedly and introduce serious errors into the computations. IARPA said it wants to "build a logical qubit from a number of imperfect physical qubits by combining high-fidelity multi-qubit operations with extensible integration."

That's a complex way of saying the organization is looking for a more efficient way to scale quantum computing systems.

According to the solicitation, success in building practical quantum computers hinges on the ability to control for the errors in quantum gates, which can be achieved by finding a way to encode physical qubits into a logical qubit.

Researchers at IARPA and IBM have been working on the logical qubit issue with some success. IBM scientists announced in April that they had developed a new qubit circuit design that is the only physical architecture that could successfully scale to larger dimensions.

In May, IARPA hosted an event to provide information to potential vendors on the objectives of an anticipated broad agency announcement for its LogiQ Program.

The July solicitation formalizes some of what the agency is looking for from potential vendors and provides a formal timeline for development. IARPA said the LogiQ Program would begin Feb. 1, 2016, and end by Jan. 31, 2021. The deadline for the initial round of proposals is Sept. 1.

Click here to read the RFP.

Posted by Mark Rockwell on Jul 09, 2015 at 2:27 PM


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