A quantum computer

‘Realizing the full potential’ of quantum computing

UMass physicist to co-lead a research effort to perfect quantum computing as a part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Co-design Center for Quantum Advantage (C2QA) 

September 9, 2020

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science announced recently that it has selected Brookhaven National Laboratory to lead one of five National Quantum Information Science Research Centers. Chen Wang, physics, will co-lead one of research sub-thrusts of the Co-design Center for Quantum Advantage (C2QA) that is focused on characterization of qubits and decoherence.


C2QA will focus on quantum computing, with up to $115 million in total awarded over the next five years to build the fundamental tools necessary for the United States to create scalable, distributed and fault-tolerant quantum computer systems. Wang says the UMass Amherst award may be up to $375,000 per year for five years for his lab.  

As DOE explains, quantum computers have the potential to solve scientific and other kinds of problems that would be practically impossible for traditional supercomputers.  However, quantum bits (qubits), the information-storing elements of quantum computers, are very delicate. Vibrations, temperature changes, electromagnetic waves and other interactions between qubits and the environment or material defects in qubits can cause quantum decoherence. In quantum decoherence, these errors cause qubits to lose information and the calculation cannot be completed. 

Wang adds, “We will work on identifying and studying mechanisms of decoherence in superconducting qubits. The aim of our sub-thrust is to provide the best operating environment to our qubits and to translate the progress of material research in C2QA into advances of qubit performance.” 

In addition, Wang will investigate new ways to perform quantum error correction.  “Since our qubits will probably never be perfect, a fault-tolerant quantum computer will have to be able to correct errors after they occur,” he says. “C2QA has assembled some of the greatest minds in theoretical and experimental quantum error correction, and I am very excited at the opportunity to leverage the novel architectures co-developed with the team to implement quantum error correction.” 

The DOE project supports the National Quantum Initiative Act, for which the five centers will facilitate the advancement of QIS technology. “Realizing the full potential of quantum-based applications in computing, communication and sensing will benefit national security, economic competitiveness and leadership in scientific discovery,” the department states. 

In C2QA, world-leading experts in QIS, materials science, computer science and theory will work together to resolve performance issues with today’s quantum computers by simultaneously designing software and hardware (co-design). Their goal is to achieve “quantum advantage” in computations for high-energy and nuclear physics, chemistry, materials science, condensed matter physics, and other fields. 

Partner institutions in addition to UMass Amherst are Ames Laboratory, Caltech, City College of New York, Columbia University, Harvard University, Howard University, IBM, Johns Hopkins University, MIT, Montana State University, NASA’s Ames Research Center, Northwestern University, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Princeton University, State University of New York Polytechnic Institute, Stony Brook University, Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, University of California, Santa Barbara, University of Pittsburgh, University of Washington, Virginia Tech and Yale. 

Read on: 

Physicist Chen Wang Partners with Multi-institution Team in Quantum Research Center

DOE announcement: National Quantum Information Science Research Centers 

Share this story: