Challenges and advances in quantum annealing at D-Wave

Andrew King - D-Wave Systems

Nov. 2, 2018, 2:30 p.m. - Nov. 2, 2018, 3:30 p.m.

Trottier 2100

Hosted by: Prof. Bruce Reed

D-Wave Systems is a BC-based company that develops and manufactures quantum annealing processors.  Quantum annealing is analogous to simulated annealing, with the additional resource of quantum tunnelling enabled by through a transverse magnetic field on a system of spins implemented as superconducting niobium qubits at operating temperatures near 0.01 degrees above absolute zero.  In practical terms, the processor provides optimal or near-optimal solutions to a quadratic unconstrained binary optimization (QUBO) problem.  This talk, aimed at a general computer science audience, will discuss where these processors came from, and where they are going; why these processors are so useful in principle, and so difficult to use in practice.  The QUBO framework is NP complete, but practical realities such as finite temperature, noise, decoherence, and phase transitions conspire to keep us away from the global optimum.  We approach these issues not only from an engineering perspective but also an algorithmic perspective, circumventing phase transitions and employing hybrid Monte Carlo methods with the quantum processor acting as a non-Markovian inner-loop step. Recent applications of these processors include constraint satisfaction problems and quantum materials simulation.

Speaker Bio: Andrew King is the Performance Research Team Lead at D-Wave Systems in Burnaby, BC, which he joined in 2013.  Originally from Vancouver, he studied at UVic and the University of Toronto before completing his Ph.D. in the School of Computer Science at McGill University in 2009.  He was a visiting researcher at ITI in Prague before working as an NSERC postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University and a PIMS postdoctoral fellow at Simon Fraser University.  In his previous life as an academic researcher, his research was focussed on graph theory and combinatorial algorithms.  More recently his work has centred around superconducting quantum annealing processors and their applications to optimization, cryptography, and quantum simulation.