Europe’s most powerful supercomputer has been hooked up to a quantum computer

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This is a first in Europe: the LUMI, the most powerful supercomputer on the continent, has been linked to a quantum computer, the HELMI, from the Technical Research Center of Finland (VTT), to offer scientists a powerful computing platform hybrid, which could solve the most complex problems, which neither of the two machines would be able to solve alone.

The LUMI (Large Unified Modern Infrastructure) is a 309 PFlop/s supercomputer, hosted at Kajaani, in a data center of the Center for Information Technology for Science (CSC). Just inaugurated in June, it currently occupies 3rd place in the Top 500 supercomputers, just ahead of the Italian Leonardo of 175 PFlop/s. It’s not only Europe’s most powerful supercomputer, but also one of the most energy-efficient — ranking 7th on the list Green500, with 51 GFlops/watt. HELMI, a 5-qubit quantum computer, is hosted by VTT. Both have been operational since 2021, but they have just been connected to offer even more computing power.

LUMI is now the most powerful quantum supercomputing infrastructure in the world, in addition to being a leading platform for artificial intelligence. This means we have all the engines of the future of computing seamlessly integrated and ready to use. », said Pekka Manninen, director of LUMI. Pilot access to the infrastructure will be granted to Finnish academics and research organisations. This will allow researchers to try and experiment with quantum computing for various uses.

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Even faster and more accurate calculations

To date, the few existing quantum computers are difficult to operate as stand-alone systems. So, although they are extremely powerful, they must be supervised by conventional computers. But here, the HELMI is not connected to a simple computer: it is the most powerful supercomputer in Europe! Thanks to this connection, the LUMI will be able to solve certain complex problems even faster, with more precision and using less energy.

Users develop a hybrid algorithm on LUMI’s side and submit the job to LUMI’s queue system for execution. Quantum jobs are transmitted to HELMI securely via HTTPS and the HELMI backend controls the hardware electronics to perform the actual quantum computation. The result is returned from the LUMI side to the program that made the call. The program can then combine the result with any conventional calculation it may have performed. It can then launch the next iteration or display the results to the user », details at ComputerWeekly Ville Kotovirta, Quantum Algorithms Team Leader at VTT.

The combined computing power of the two machines paves the way for ambitious research projects in several sectors. For example, machine learning applications to generate new molecular structures from existing molecular data could be faster and more accurate, dramatically accelerating the process of designing new materials or developing new drugs.

Other concrete benefits of this hybrid platform are also expected in areas where the accuracy and quality of computational predictions are crucial, but the time to find the answer is limited. This is the case, for example, of short-term weather forecasts, in particular during the occurrence of extreme events potentially threatening populations.

A test platform to prepare for the “quantum revolution”

Real-time analysis of satellite data could also help detect an incipient wildfire before it spreads out of control. The optimization of supply chains, travel routes and portfolio management are other examples of applications where the combination of high performance computing and quantum computing is of interest.

Within this new pair, the supercomputer could also help optimize quantum algorithms and post-process measurement data to mitigate calculation errors. Quantum computers are indeed very vulnerable to errors on qubits, and the more the number of qubits increases, the greater the risk of errors; supercomputers will facilitate the development of the necessary corrective codes.

The newly established connection ultimately provides insight into the possibilities of quantum computing, and will allow scientists to experiment with different ways to effectively use this new technology. Quantum computing is still little understood and involves developing completely new algorithms and problem-solving approaches. VTT is doing all it can to prepare for the upcoming “quantum revolution”: it is currently developing a 20-qubit quantum computer, and a 50-qubit upgrade is already planned for 2024.

In the meantime, the LUMI-HELMI connection will be an opportunity to test different programming approaches before quantum computers become widely available — the goal being to get the best of both worlds, quantum and classical, and learn to distribute computing tasks optimally between these two technologies. After a pilot phase reserved for academics, it is planned to open the connection to a wider audience.

Source : MTB

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Europe’s most powerful supercomputer has been hooked up to a quantum computer


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