Quantum news: Zapata aims compute power toward the search for signs of life in outer space

D-Wave updates its product roadmap with a new qubit design and a gate-model computing system.

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Zapata Computing Inc. is focusing its latest quantum exploration on deep space and astrophysics. The company announced a new partnership with the University of Hull in the U.K. to support this work. Researchers will use Zapata's Orquestra platform to look for signs of life in outer space.

The E.A. Milne Centre for Astrophysics at the university will start with a list of 14,000 molecules compiled by MIT scientists that could indicate life on planets outside Earth's solar system. The research team will use quantum computing to evaluate and understand the biological signatures of these molecules, namely electronic correlation, which defines how atoms interact with each other. Understanding the interactions between simple molecules such as oxygen or nitrogen requires very accurate calculations, which is where the quantum computer comes in.  According to Zapata, this could improve the ability to spot the building blocks of life in space. 

"With Zapata's support, we are one step closer to discovering life beyond Earth," Dr. David Benoit, a senior lecturer in Molecular Physics and Astrochemistry at the university, said in a press release.

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Organizations can use the Orquestra quantum platform to generate augmented data sets, speed up data analysis and construct better data models for various use cases, according to Zapata. 

The research project will run for eight weeks and is the first of several collaborations between Zapata and the university focused on quantum astrophysics applications. 

D-Wave updates product roadmap

In other quantum news this week, D-Wave announced a performance update to its Advantage quantum system, a new hybrid solver in the company's Leap quantum cloud service and a preview of its next generation platform that will include both annealing and gate-model computers. The Advantage update allows customers to solve larger and more complex problems with greater precision. The new constrained quadratic model incorporates problem constraints into the solver, which means companies can test larger problems to run across classical and quantum systems.

The new Clarity Roadmap has these milestones:

  • A new qubit design with 20-way connectivity
  • A next generation Advantage 2 quantum system with 7,000 qubits
  • An initiative to develop the industry's first scalable and practical error-corrected gate-model computing system
  • Cross-platform open-source developer tools

According to the company, improvements to quantum annealing technology will unlock new applications including broader materials science applications, 5G and wireless use cases and training of machine learning models. The company expects its new gate-model quantum systems to assist with drug delivery and to develop new meta materials in the manufacturing industry while annealing systems will support patient trial optimization and factory automation improvements. The company said in a statement that the Clarity roadmap prioritizes solving for scalability and quantum processor architecture.

Doctor Kristel Michielsen, group leader of quantum information processing at the interdisciplinary research institute Forschungszentrum Jülich, said that D-Wave has achieved a competitive advantage in the quantum industry by restricting its focus to quantum annealing.

"With its new initiative to engineer its first scalable and practical error-corrected gate-model quantum computing system, D-Wave is now expanding from this successful platform into the arena of general-purpose quantum computing," she said in a press release. "This fundamental step should enable D-Wave to cover the entire market of potential applications in the future and will make D-Wave an even more important partner for Jülich to work with on quantum research and to further advance practical quantum computing."

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