Covestro-QC Ware collaboration will use quantum computing to make manufacturing more sustainable
(Forbes) Alex Knapp discusses the importance and implications of the recently announced five-year collaboration agreement between Germany-based polymer manufacturer Covestro and San Francisco-based quantum computing software developer QC Ware. IQT-News summarizes below.
The companies will work to the develop quantum computing algorithms that can improve Covestro’s manufacturing processes and materials. “We are fully convinced that the technology of quantum computing will give computational chemists a decisive boost in the future,” says Torsten Heinemann, Covestro’s head of group innovation.
Chemical manufacturing and materials science are industries where microscopic changes in microscopic systems can have major impacts on macroscale development. The challenge of this chemistry is that it has to be done on the quantum level, where the math is so complex that even supercomputers have trouble crunching the numbers. This creates a tradeoff where being able to design materials or processes in a timely way means simplifying mathematical models and approximating quantum systems. The more simplified the model, the faster computers can crunch it–but at a cost of manufacturing quality or efficiency.
That’s where quantum computing steps in. Because these systems take advantage of quantum processes to create computing power, they hold the potential to simulate chemistry without approximation. “Quantum chemistry is extremely natural to do on a quantum computer,” explains Rob Parrish, QC Ware’s head of chemistry simulations (and alumnus of the 2015 Forbes Under 30 Science list). “And the reason is that you’re trying to make a doppelganger of one quantum system in another quantum system. So it does map very nicely.”
Covestro and QC Ware have spent the past year in a partnership to develop a proof-of-concept for modeling the types of reactions that produce molecules in industrial applications. This work has resulted in two papers, one that shows new techniques that allow for simulation using fewer quantum computing resources, and the other developing a new way to calculate energy gradients. These gradients are used to simulate useful chemical processes by manufacturers.
Sandra K. Helsel, Ph.D. has been researching and reporting on frontier technologies since 1990. She has her Ph.D. from the University of Arizona.