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Quantum computing center established at USC

Quantum Computing Center Established at USC
Daniel Lidar, scientific director of the new center on the Information Sciences Institute in Marina del Rey

Building on its history of pioneering advances in high-performance computing and the Internet, USC now is exploring the future of quantum computing.

The newly formed USC-Lockheed Martin Quantum Computing Center will examine the potential of quantum computing technology at the university’s Information Sciences Institute campus in Marina del Rey. The operational center houses D-Wave Systems Inc.’s revolutionary quantum computer, which recently was purchased by Lockheed Martin.

“The center will open new windows in the fascinating world of quantum computing,” said USC Viterbi School of Engineering dean Yannis C. Yortsos. “It will help advance our understanding of the potential of this new technology and to provide a new computing paradigm in the quest for faster and more secure computing.”

The D-Wave quantum computer has 128 quantum bits (called qubits), which have the capability of encoding the two digits of one and zero at the same time – as opposed to traditional bits, which can encode distinctly either a one or a zero. This property, called superposition, along with the ability of quantum states to “tunnel” through energy barriers, will help the present D-Wave device to perform optimization calculations much faster (and potentially exponentially faster) than traditional computers.

The facility keeps the D-Wave hardware at near absolute zero temperatures and contains powerful shielding to block out electromagnetic interference.

“It’s one of the coldest and most magnetically shielded places on Earth,” said Daniel Lidar, professor of electrical engineering at USC Viterbl and scientific director of the new center. He also has a joint appointment as professor of chemistry, and physics and astronomy at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Absolute zero is the temperature at which entropy stops, eliminating thermal energy. It is defined as 0° Kelvin, or -273.15° Celsius. The USC facility operates at 20 microKelvin. The multimillion dollar facility is state of the art and, most importantly, easily upgradable. Though it currently houses a 128-qubit D-Wave quantum processor, that piece of hardware can be easily replaced as more advanced processors become available.

The center will provide the necessary infrastructure to support future generations of quantum chips, positioning the school and its partners at the forefront of quantum computing research.

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Quantum computing center established at USC

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