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Quantum computers may revolutionize chemistry

By Shawn Knight
Jul 19, 2016
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  1. As powerful as today’s traditional supercomputers are, they still struggle greatly with modeling chemical systems.

    For example, chemists still don’t fully understand exactly how bacteria produce fertilizer at room temperature. Considering the fact that fertilizer production is inefficient and consumes as much as two percent of the world’s energy each year, solving its mysteries could save billions of dollars.

    Now, researchers from Harvard, Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, UC Santa Barbara, Tufts University and University College London are one step closer to being able to solve that and other difficult models after having successfully performed the first completely scalable quantum simulation of a molecule using a quantum computer.

    As explained in this Google Research Blog post, the team sought to predict chemical reaction rates which must be done with extremely high precision. To do that, they must first be able to compute the lowest energy state of electrons in the presence of a given nuclear configuration.

    Without going too deep into the scientific details, just know that the ability to do so could revolutionize the design of solar cells, industrial catalysts, flexible electronics, batteries, medicines and more.

    What makes this process so difficult is the fact that molecular systems form highly entangled quantum superposition states that require exponentially many classical computing resources to calculate. For example, computing the energies of methane takes about one second but the same calculation takes about ten minutes for ethane and roughly 10 days for propane.

    Using an approach called the variational quantum eigensolver (VQE), the team quantum computed the energy landscape of hydrogen. They compared it with another quantum algorithm, the phase estimation algorithm (PEA), and the exact energy curve as shown in the graph above. As you can see, it was incredibly accurate and inspires hope that the VQE technique may be able to solve classically intractable problems like the production of fertilizer mentioned earlier.

    Those interested in learning more can check out their paper on the subject, Scalable Quantum Simulation of Molecular Energies.

    Lead image courtesy D-Wave Systems

    Permalink to story.

     
  2. yRaz

    yRaz TS Evangelist Posts: 1,906   +954

    Next time you try to talk about science stuff, try to say as little as possible and just post the source....
     
  3. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,156   +1,431

    TechSpot is a news publisher, not a news catalog.
     
  4. yRaz

    yRaz TS Evangelist Posts: 1,906   +954

    my point is that he was trying to paraphrase material he doesn't understand and the quality of the article suffered as a result. If you don't understand the material, say as little as possible and give us a source where we can read about it from someone who does. Otherwise he's just trying to make money on material he is unable to report on
     
  5. RustyTech

    RustyTech TS Guru Posts: 865   +434

    Seems like good reporting to me. But then again, I didn't understand more than half of the technicalities :D
     
  6. Igrecman

    Igrecman TS Enthusiast Posts: 92   +48

    The Quantum company will earn billions ;)
     
    Jack007 likes this.
  7. ManuelV

    ManuelV TS Enthusiast Posts: 59   +26

    Yeah, we dont deserve this resume. Now, go to the link and lets us here crying alone :(
     
  8. namesrejected

    namesrejected TS Booster Posts: 101   +48

    Please, enlighten us. What is so off in the article that has gotten you so upset about it? Just curious, didn't seem like a bad read to me.
     
  9. Jack007

    Jack007 TS Booster Posts: 161   +34

    About time quantum computing solved some mysteries in chemistry. Keep applying it
     

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