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Quantum Computer

In spring 2013, engineers installed a D-Wave Two™ quantum computer in the NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) facility at NASA’s Ames Research Center. The system—about the size of a garden storage shed—is housed inside a cryogenics system within a 10-square-meter shielded room. The system, with approximately 512 superconducting flux qubits is the most powerful of its kind in the world.

Since the quantum computer became operational in fall 2013, researchers at NASA Ames and other NASA centers have been using it to investigate quantum approaches to optimization problems in such areas as air traffic control, autonomy, robotics, navigation and communication, system diagnostics, pattern recognition, anomaly detection, and mission planning and scheduling. Through testing of problems in these disciplines, NASA’s QuAIL team hopes to demonstrate that large-scale quantum computers will be able to solve certain problems much faster than any classical computer using the best currently known optimization algorithms. Early potential applications of interest to NASA include validating the transit signals of planets for the Kepler mission, and planning and scheduling for space missions, including planetary rover exploration.

D-Wave Two™ Computer

  • Manufacturer: D-Wave Systems Inc.
  • Uses a 1,097-qubit Washington processor
  • Niobium superconducting loop encodes 2 states as tiny magnetic fields
  • Processor cooled with liquid helium to 20 millikelvin (near absolute zero)
  • Uses 12 kilowatts of power (compared to an average of 4100 kilowatts for the 10 top U.S. supercomputers)

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