Azure Quantum Elements Utilized by Microsoft

Now, before you get too excited about the “quantum” part of “Azure Quantum Elements” (and why wouldn’t you — it’s in the name, after all), let’s get this out of the way first: No quantum computer was used in this project. Azure Quantum Elements, which launched last summer, combines AI and traditional high-performance computing (HPC) techniques into what is essentially a workbench for scientific computing, with the promise of providing access to Microsoft’s quantum supercomputer in the future. Krysta Svore, who leads Microsoft Quantum, told me that the overall idea here was to see how far the team could push what is currently available in Azure Quantum Elements (AQE) — and especially the AI accelerator — to advance materials discovery. After that, the researchers used existing HPC techniques to identify those 18 promising candidates to focus on. And while the quantum computing community continues to push the state of the art ahead at a steady pace, we’re still at least a few years away from seeing a quantum computer that is actually useful.

In an exciting announcement, Microsoft has collaborated with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) to leverage its Azure Quantum Elements service and revolutionize the search for new battery materials. Using this innovative technology, the team was able to greatly reduce a list of millions of potential materials down to only a handful, with one already reaching the prototype stage.

While the name “Azure Quantum Elements” may suggest the use of quantum computing, rest assured that this project did not involve any actual quantum computers. Instead, the service, which was launched last summer, utilizes a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and traditional high-performance computing (HPC) techniques. This creates a highly versatile and advanced workbench for scientific computing, with the promise of eventually providing access to Microsoft’s quantum supercomputer. While qubits were not a part of this particular project, the ultimate goal is to merge these technologies and continuously push the boundaries of scientific discovery.

Microsoft Quantum’s Krysta Svore explained that the team’s primary aim was to test the limits of what is currently possible with Azure Quantum Elements (AQE). By utilizing the AI accelerator within AQE, PNNL researchers were able to analyze a staggering 32 million inorganic materials and narrow them down to just 18 candidates for their battery project. From there, existing HPC techniques were employed to further refine the selection and pinpoint the most promising materials. This process, which would normally take years, was completed in just 18 months thanks to the capabilities of AQE.

“The intersection of AI, cloud, and high-performance computing, coupled with the expertise of human scientists, is key to accelerating scientific breakthroughs,” stated Tony Peurrung, PNNL’s deputy director for Science and Technology. “Our collaboration with Microsoft aims to make AI more accessible to researchers. By using AI, we can uncover unexpected and unconventional materials and approaches worthy of further exploration. This is just the beginning of an exciting journey to drive the pace of scientific discovery forward.”

Many experts in the quantum computing field predict that these powerful machines will excel at solving complex chemistry and material science problems. However, while progress in quantum computing continues to advance, it will likely be a few more years before a fully functional quantum computer is available. Currently, we are still in the early stages, known as the “noisy intermediate-scale quantum” (NISQ) era. With this in mind, Svore remains optimistic that Microsoft will achieve their goal of constructing a quantum supercomputer that uses Majorana-based qubits within the next decade.

While the science behind this project is undoubtedly significant, it’s hard to ignore the fact that it may also serve as a PR strategy, given the current limitations of quantum computing. However, with continued collaboration and advancements in technology, the possibilities for scientific discovery are endless.

Avatar photo
Dylan Williams

Dylan Williams is a multimedia storyteller with a background in video production and graphic design. He has a knack for finding and sharing unique and visually striking stories from around the world.

Articles: 834

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *