Quantum computers offer considerable advantages in computing speed compared to classical, digital computers. This is particularly important when solving optimisation problems involving the calculation of complex issues such as logistics processes. In order to make use of this potential, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research is now funding a project to develop a practical quantum computer with around 25 million euros. The total project volume is 29 million euros. More than seven million euros of this will go to the Department of Physics at the Technical University of Kaiserslautern (TUK).
Many computational problems of practical relevance push even today's high-performance computers to their limits. This becomes apparent time and again, for example, in optimisation problems such as route planning with many stopovers, the optimisation of interlocking work and production processes, the calculation of the ideal climb of an aircraft or the planning of resource-saving logistics processes for supply chains and transshipment points.
In the race to build a quantum computer that can be used for applications, researchers at the TU Kaiserslautern have now achieved a great success. They were able to acquire an outstanding large-scale project to build such a computer at TU Kaiserslautern. Over the next five years, they will work together with colleagues from the University of Hamburg and the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM as well as industrial partners to develop a functional quantum processor based on so-called Rydberg atoms. The aim is to optimise industrially relevant problems. The quantum computer will be located in the newly constructed research building "Laboratory for Advanced Spin Engineering" (LASE) on the university campus.
Quantum computers can outperform conventional computers many times over because they work completely differently. Instead of classical bits that can take the value of either 0 or 1, they use so-called quantum bits that can be 0 and 1 at the same time. "This gives them immense potential to tackle problems that are unsolvable for classical computers. In particular, they promise to be able to solve important problems in logistics and process optimisation. They are a central key technology of the 21st century," says Professor Dr Herwig Ott, group leader at TUK's Department of Physics, who funded the project together with his physics colleagues Professor Dr Artur Widera and Dr Thomas Niederprüm.
Professor Widera adds: "We are proud to have acquired this forward-looking project for the city, region and state of Rhineland-Palatinate, which will bring international visibility to Kaiserslautern as a location. It is a great success that we can now contribute the expertise in quantum technology and quantum physics that we have built up over the past ten years within the framework of our Collaborative Research Centres to this highly exciting project." Dr Thomas Niederprüm further explains, "With the quantum computer, we want to test how shipping routes for goods logistics or supply chains can be improved and made more sustainable overall, so that energy can be saved and thus contribute to climate protection."
Other future areas of application include the calculation of new active ingredients for medicines or the optimisation of insurance algorithms. "In the long term, we also expect a positive impact on regional industry, as the quantum computer can be operated completely externally and optimisation problems arise in many places," concludes Professor Ott.
University President Professor Dr Arnd Poetzsch-Heffter emphasises the importance of the project: "With the construction of a quantum computer, we are among a few research locations worldwide that are developing this new technology. This is an outstanding success and of enormous strategic importance for the entire location. I warmly congratulate all those involved." Professor Dr Werner R. Thiel, Vice President for Research and Technology at TUK, is also pleased: "I congratulate my colleagues. Over the past few years, they have laid the foundation in various projects, special research areas and also in the OPTIMAS profile area funded by the state. This is now paying off."
The "RYMAX" research consortium includes scientists from the TU Kaiserslautern, researchers from the University of Hamburg, the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM and industrial partners from the fields of laser technology, optical technologies, electronics, software development and logistics.
Further information: www.quantentechnologien.de/forschung/foerderung/quantencomputer-demonstrationsaufbauten/rymax.html
Professor Dr. Herwig Ott
Teaching area: Quantenatomoptik
Tel.: 0631 205-2817
Professor Dr. Artur Widera
Teaching area: Individual Quantum Systems
Tel.: 0631 205-4130
Dr. Thomas Niederprüm
Teaching area: Quantenatomoptik
Tel.: 0631 205-4307