August 26, 2020
Web Feature

PNNL to Contribute Expertise to Three National Quantum Information Science Research Centers

The National QIS Research Centers will accelerate advances in materials science, physics, computing, information technology, and algorithm development necessary to support advancement of quantum computing

Blue orb representing quantum information sciences

Advances in quantum information sciences will be the goal of five new research centers.

Composite Visual: Donald Jorgensen | PNNL

A cadre of physical scientists, engineers and computing experts at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is poised to participate in the launch of three new quantum information science research centers. The National QIS Research Centers represent a five-year commitment by DOE to build and operate an entirely new computing infrastructure based on quantum information.  

Each of the five new QIS research centers is comprised of multiple national laboratories, universities and private industry working in tandem to provide U.S. leadership to an area of research widely viewed as critical to economic growth and security in the 21st century. The QIS research centers will accelerate advances in materials science, physics, computing, information technology, and algorithm development necessary to support the goals of the National Quantum Initiative Act of 2018.

The long-term, large-scale commitment of U.S. scientific and technological resources is $15 million for each of five QIS research centers in fiscal year 2020-2021, with an anticipated funding level of $25 million per year for each of the QIS research centers over the remaining four years.

“Realizing the promise of quantum computing is beyond the capacity of any single institution, public or private,” said PNNL Director Steven Ashby. “The power of these new quantum sciences centers lies in the partnerships that will be forged among the national laboratories, leading universities and other research institutions. We are proud that PNNL scientists and engineers will participate in three centers, applying their expertise to the quest to build a reliable quantum computer and to use it to solve the most pressing problems in science and energy.”

PNNL is contributing to the following centers:

Co-design Center for Quantum Advantage


PNNL will play a major role in the Co-design Center for Quantum Advantage (C2QA), led by Brookhaven National Laboratory. From developing new materials that will form the backbone of a quantum computer to writing the computer programs that will allow it to operate, PNNL is contributing all along the development curve.

PNNL’s expertise in probing material structure at the atomic level will be used to match materials to their quantum properties, improving performance and stability. Experience with high purity materials will be tapped to reduce unwanted magnetic interference, and theoretical modeling skills will complement the experimental work to generate new ideas.

The research team will also explore ways to mitigate the effects of natural environmental radiation, including the possibility of operating quantum devices in PNNL’s Shallow Underground Laboratory, where cosmic radiation levels are significantly reduced. Finally, PNNL researchers will explore how to program a computer that does not yet exist, developing computing code that can be tested on prototype quantum computers as they are developed.

PNNL project leads: Jim Ang, Peter Sushko, Brent VanDevender, Marvin Warner, Nathan Wiebe.

Quantum Science Center

Quantum computing image

Determining how to simulate how a quantum computer will work as well as write programs that will run on a quantum computer occupies PNNL scientists Sriram Krishnamoorthy and Karol Kowalski, along with their PNNL colleagues working as part of the multi-institutional Quantum Science Center, led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The research will build on a long-established partnership between PNNL and Microsoft to write computing code that will solve chemistry problems that cannot be solved on even the most sophisticated conventional computers. The team has already produced open source code built on PNNL’s NWChem software package, integrating it with Microsoft’s Q# platform. As part of the Quantum Science Center, they will be taking their quest to the next level, simulating quantum chemistry that will bridge to the new QIS computing platforms.

PNNL project leads: Karol Kowalski, Sriram Krishnamoorthy.

Next Generation Quantum Science and Engineering

QIS orb

Three national laboratories, including PNNL, along with academic and industry partners, will form the nucleus of the Next Generation Quantum Science and Engineering (Q-NEXT), led by Argonne National Laboratory. These institutions bring decades of broad, complementary expertise in quantum computing, communications and sensing. This expertise includes quantum information theory, high-performance computation, quantum experimental science, basic discovery science, advanced computing and high energy physics. The Q-NEXT partners are building the infrastructure needed to advance QIS technology, including a unique array of DOE national scientific user facilities.

PNNL will build on its established partnership with the Microsoft Quantum team to develop a quantum materials toolkit, which capitalizes on a hybrid approach to bridge classical computing with quantum computing, including the use of quantum processors. The team will strive to develop qubit representations of complex chemistry problems, leveraging earlier investments in NWChem as part of this effort.

PNNL project leads: Niri Govind, Bo Peng.

“As a partner in these collaborative endeavors, PNNL brings its strengths in quantum chemistry, scientific computing co-design, atomically precise materials and ultra-pure materials science,” said Louis Terminello, associate lab director. “This investment in quantum information science research centers will catalyze scientific discovery and technical innovation for many years to come.”

The overall aim of the QIS research centers, coupled with DOE’s core research portfolio, is to create the ecosystem needed to foster and facilitate advancement of QIS, with major anticipated benefits for national security, economic competitiveness, and America’s continued leadership in science. Learn more about the DOE investment in quantum information science.