(ZDNet) A team of IBM researchers have successfully simulated some molecules with a higher degree of accuracy than before, with no need for more qubits. The researchers effectively managed to pack more information into the mathematical functions that were used to carry out the simulation, meaning that the outcome of the process was far more precise, and yet came at no extra computational cost.
“We demonstrate that the properties for paradigmatic molecules such as hydrogen fluoride (HF) can be calculated with a higher degree of accuracy on today’s small quantum computers,” said the researchers, at the same time priding themselves on helping quantum computers “punch above their weight”.
Car manufacturer Daimler, a long-term quantum research partner of IBM’s, has shown a strong interest in the results, which could go a long way in developing higher-performing, longer-lasting and less expensive batteries.
Designing a battery based on new materials requires an exact understanding of which compounds should come together and how. The classical methods that exist today fail to render these simulations with the precision that is required for a breakthrough such as the one Daimler is working towards.
To do that, physicists need quantum computers that support many qubits; but scaling qubits is no piece of cake. Most quantum computers, including IBM’s, work with less than 100 qubits, which is nowhere near enough to simulate the complex molecules that are needed for breakthroughs, such as lithium-sulfur car batteries.
Instead of waiting for a larger quantum computer that could take in weighty calculations, the researchers decided to see what they could do with the technology as it stands. To compensate for resource limitations, the team created a so-called “transcorrelated” Hamiltonian – one that was transformed to contain additional information about the behavior of electrons in a particular molecule.
The method is a new step towards calculating materials’ properties with accuracy on a quantum computer, despite the limited resources available to date.
IBM’s findings might accelerate the timeline of events for quantum applications, therefore, with new use cases emerging even while quantum computers work with few qubits.

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