Open source software to accelerate quantum research

June 20, 2023

(Nanowerk News) Within a few decades, quantum technology is expected to become a key technology in areas such as health, communications, defense, and energy. The power and potential of the technology lies in the strange and very special properties of quantum particles. Of particular interest to researchers in the field are the superconducting properties of quantum particles which give the components perfect conductivity with unique magnetic properties.

This property of superconductors is considered conventional today and has paved the way for entirely new technologies used in applications such as magnetic resonance imaging equipment, maglev trains and components of quantum computers. However, years of research and development remain before quantum computers can be expected to solve real computational problems in practice, for example. The research community believes that there are more revolutionary discoveries to be made in quantum technology than we know today.

Open source code for exploring new superconducting properties

Basic research in quantum materials is the basis of all innovations in quantum technology, from the birth of the transistor in 1947, to lasers in the 1960s to today’s quantum computers. However, experiments on quantum materials are often very resource-intensive to develop and conduct, taking years to prepare, and most produce results that are difficult to interpret.

But now, the research team at Chalmers has developed the open-source software SuperConga (Applied Physics Review, “SuperConga: An open source framework for mesoscopic superconductivity”), which is free for everyone to use, and specifically designed for performing advanced simulations and analysis of quantum components. The program operates at the mesoscopic* level, meaning it can perform simulations capable of ‘picking up’ the strange properties of quantum particles, and also applying them in practice.

That open source code is the first of its kind in the world and is expected to explore entirely new superconducting properties and eventually pave the way for quantum computers that can use advanced computing to address societal challenges in several areas.

“We are particularly interested in unconventional superconductors, which are a puzzle in terms of how they work and what their properties are. We know that they have some desirable properties that allow quantum information to be shielded from interference and fluctuations. It is this interference that currently limits us from having quantum computers that can be used in practice. And this is where basic research on quantum materials is critical if we are to make progress,” said Mikael Fogelstrom, Professor of Theoretical Physics at Chalmers.

These new superconductors continue to be very mysterious materials – much like their conventional brethren when they were discovered in laboratories over a hundred years ago. After that discovery, it was more than 40 years before researchers could explain it in theory. Chalmers researchers now hope that their open source code can contribute to entirely new areas of discovery and application.

“We wanted to find out about all the other interesting properties of unconventional superconductors. Our software is powerful, educational and user-friendly, and we hope it will help generate new understanding and suggest entirely new applications for these unexplored superconductors,” said Patric Holmvall, Postdoctoral researcher in Condensed Matter Physics at Uppsala University.

The desire to make life easier for quantum researchers and students

To be able to explore revolutionary new discoveries, a tool is needed that can study and exploit the extraordinary properties of quantum at the minimal particle level, and that can also be scaled large enough to be used in practice. Researchers need to work on a mesoscopic scale*. This lies at the interface between the microscopic scale, namely the atomic level where the quantum properties of particles can still be used, and the macroscopic scale which measures everyday objects in our world which, unlike quantum particles, are subject to the laws of classical physics.

Because of the software’s ability to work at this mesoscopic level, the Chalmers researchers now hope to make life easier for researchers and students working with quantum physics.

“Very simplified models based on microscopic or macroscopic scales are often used today. This meant that they either failed to identify all the essential physics or could not be used in practice. With this free software, we want to make it easier for others to accelerate and improve their quantum research without always having to reinvent the wheel,” said Tomas Löfwander, Professor of Applied Quantum Physics at Chalmers.

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