Daimler and IBM on how to build a better battery with quantum computing

Companies announce at CES 2020 that quantum chemistry may be the key to improving lithium-sulfur batteries.

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IBM and Daimler are developing next-generation automotive batteries by using quantum computing and quantum chemistry to simulate the chemical makeup of lithium-sulfur batteries.

Sharing the news at CES 2020, the companies say they think this new battery could be more powerful, longer lasting, and cheaper than lithium ion batteries that are widely used today.

Researchers at Daimler are testing the idea that quantum computers will be able to simulate the fundamental behavior of chemical compounds in batteries.

The goal of molecular simulation is to find a compound's most stable configuration. This requires simulating the interactions between all the particles, such as electrons, in the molecule. The bigger and more complex a molecule and its environment are, the more difficult this process gets. Understanding how the molecules work will help build a better battery.

In the research paper "Quantum Chemistry Simulations of Dominant Products in Lithium-Sulfur Batteries," Jeannette Garcia, senior manager of algorithms, applications and theory team at IBM Research, writes that IBM researchers have simulated the ground state energies and the dipole moments of the molecules that could form in lithium-sulfur batteries during operation: lithium hydride (LiH), hydrogen sulfide (H 2 S), lithium hydrogen sulfide (LiSH), and the desired product, lithium sulfide (Li 2 S).

In addition, and for the first time on quantum hardware, the team has demonstrated that it is possible to calculate the dipole moment for LiH using 4 qubits on IBM Q Valencia, a premium-access 5-qubit quantum computer.

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The current generation of quantum computers—Noisy Intermediate-Scale Quantum (NISQ) systems—use imperfect qubits, which are subject to environmental noise, and are operable for a short time before reaching decoherence.

It is possible for a quantum computer to combine noisy qubits to simulate a perfect qubit, with John Preskill estimating this conversion around 1,000 noisy qubits for 1 good qubit, while IBM researchers have seen some success by amplifying and measuring noise to extrapolate what a noiseless state would be.

At CES 2020, IBM announced several new partners in its Quantum Computing Network including Delta and Anthem, and other news as well.

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The transmon qubit is the heart of IBM's quantum computing platform.

Image: IBM