Friday, August 12

Barcelona will build the first quantum computer in southern Europe

The Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) will have a quantum computer with a capacity far superior to supercomputers. It is a project that is part of Quantum Spain (the quantum computing ecosystem announced by the Government and which will be the first initiative of its kind in southern Europe), and which plans to have the first chip manufactured by the end of 2022.

Speaking to the media this Friday, the project coordinator, Alba Cervera, stated that quantum technology, based on the properties of matter at the microscopic level, will not replace supercomputers such as Mare Nostrum 5, which will be installed soon in the enclosure, but is “complementary.”

“It can solve very complicated problems but not all, and many problems will not need a quantum computer. In the same way that we do not need to use the Mare Nostrum to send a ‘whatsapp’, we will not need a quantum computer to do things that a classic computer already does. perfectly, “he reasoned.

Pioneer in Europe

In a meeting with the media, the associate director of the BSC, Josep Maria Martorell, explained that quantum computing is a discipline currently led by US companies and Chinese universities that only grant remote access to their quantum computers and have export limitations .

Therefore, he believes that it is a good time for European research to start working on it in pursuit of the technological sovereignty of the continent, an issue that until now has proven vital in the manufacture of chips and conductors. Martorell has said that now There is no quantum computer in Europe itself and it has indicated that, as proposed by the Government, it will bet on continental technology for the development of the project.

Applications in quantum computing

The main function of the computer will be to be able to transfer it in temporary fractions to researchers who need supercomputing for their projects, through the usual requests of the Spanish Supercomputing Network (RES), so that they can connect remotely.

Cervera explained that the financial sector is exploring the possibilities of quantum computing for calculation, as well as the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, materials science and even cryptography, for which quantum computing can pose a security challenge, according to The experts.

The RES coordinator, Sergi Girona, has said that they expect a lot of excess demand from supercomputing consumers, due to the attractiveness of this technology: to the transfer of the equivalent of millions of hours of CPU from the Mare Nostrum supercomputer, it may be added the high quantum capacity of the new apparatus.

Cervera is confident that this project will contribute to creating a critical mass of experts in quantum computing in Spain, as he sees a knowledge gap in this area. The first chip is expected to be available at the end of 2022, with the intention of renewing it from time to time to increase capacity until 2025.

The quantum computer will consume less energy and will be significantly smaller than the Mare Nostrum, which occupies the old chapel of the enclosure: it will only require adapting a space to cool the machine down to absolute zero (-273 degrees Celsius), with which the interior of This computer will be as cold as the coldest point in the universe, Cervera has joked.

Quantum Spain involves 25 universities and centers from 14 autonomies and provides research activities (to develop new algorithms and their applications, for example in artificial intelligence) and training; it has an initial endowment of 22 million euros.