NETL prepares to put quantum computing to work in key energy research

NETL experts are preparing to put quantum computing, a rising, powerful and promising new force for solving complex and rapid problems, to work on key energy research topics leading to a sustainable and economically prosperous energy future. environmental.

Quantum computing uses the principles of quantum mechanics to sift through a large number of possibilities to extract solutions to complex problems at exponentially faster speeds than conventional computers with less power consumption.

While classical computers store information as bits with 0s or 1s, quantum computers use the superposition of 0s and 1s, called quantum bits (qubits). Qubits can carry information in a quantum state that engages 0 and 1 multidimensionally.

The growing potential of quantum computing holds promise for unraveling scientific mysteries in a wide range of fields leading to new solutions and approaches for security and intelligence, drug design, aerospace engineering, machine learning, digital manufacturing and dozens of other areas requiring complex problem solving. as part of the development process.

Hari Paudel, Ph.D. of NETL, key member of NETL’s Quantum for Energy Systems and Technologies (QUEST) working group, tells the public at events dedicated to quantum information science (QIS) that quantum computing can be the right tool to accelerate research projects focused on finding clean energy technologies more effective.

Paudel participated in a workshop hosted by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in September where he discussed the potential for using quantum computing and simulations for materials chemistry and optimization for development energy technologies. The IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to the advancement of technology.

“QIS will profoundly change science and engineering in the decades to come,” Paudel said. “This will allow researchers to perform tasks that are impossible to do today, such as finding prime factors of large numbers or defining reaction mechanisms in complex chemical systems.”

He said specific energy research areas that will see quantum computing applications include underground engineering, creating new and more efficient sensors and detectors, power plant design, developing sorbents and carbon dioxide, creation of energy storage materials, power grid improvements, oil and gas pipeline innovations, cybersecurity improvements, development of high-performance materials, and operations and control improvements power plants.

To prepare for the future impact of quantum computing on energy research, NETL launched QUEST to apply QIS to the development of fossil energy technologies. Besides Paudel, NETL QUEST members are Yuhua Duan, Dominic Alfonso, Yueh-Lin Lee, Scott Crawford and Gary Lander, as well as experts from the University of Pittsburgh.

QUEST established a task force to develop, review, manage, and advise on quantum computing-related technologies for the U.S. Department of Environment’s Laboratory and Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM). energy. Group members, along with their supervisors, create a training strategy to establish the skills needed to propose, execute, and manage research projects within one to three years.

Paudel added that NETL’s Quantum Sensing project is pursuing some near-term research and development opportunities for quantum sensing that may impact the FECM mission. For example, cold quantum sensing materials can be used in subsurface monitoring, natural gas infrastructure monitoring, and rare earth element detection.

He said NETL has a long history of planning the emergence of quantum computing in energy research. In 2019, for example, NETL leaders hosted the Fossil Energy Workshop on Quantum Information Science and Technology, which was the first time experts from various fields came together to exchange information and explore potential research opportunities for quantum computing to advance fossil energy research projects. .

Researchers around the world are eagerly awaiting the final stages in the evolution of quantum computing, as a quantum computer is many times faster than a classical computer or even a supercomputer, but takes a long time to build. IBM plans to have a 1,000-qubit quantum computer in place by the end of next year and is currently granting access to its machines to research organizations that are part of its quantum network.

At NETL, years of planning for the emergence of QIS and decades of expertise and success in energy research have positioned its researchers to bring the era of quantum computing to bear on aggressive efforts to drive innovation. and providing solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future.

NETL is a national laboratory of the United States Department of Energy.

Sherry J. Basler