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Boeing, IBM Tap Quantum to Tackle Corrosion

Quantum methods helped make simulation more accurate than using classical computers

Berenice Baker

October 4, 2023

2 Min Read
A dockyard worker removes rust from a ship hull
Boeing and IBM performed quantum simulations of a key step in the corrosion process.Getty

Boeing and IBM have joined forces to study whether quantum computing can create new, corrosion-resistant materials to prevent damage to the metals used in aerospace applications.

Researchers from both companies have developed two techniques to perform quantum simulations of a key step in the corrosion process known as water reduction. Since this is a natural quantum process, quantum methods can model it more accurately than classical methods.

They also devised a new way of simplifying quantum circuits to reduce the quantum resources needed for their simulations and potential future simulations of other systems, publishing their findings in Nature’s npj Quantum Information journal.

“Whether you’re talking about an aircraft, the hull of a ship or something else, sooner or later it's going to be degraded by the interaction with the environment, and you won’t be able to use it anymore,” said IBM senior research scientist Mario Motta in an IBM blog post.

“The goal is for scientists to do calculations to characterize corrosion in existing materials, and eventually to propose a new material that is more resilient to corrosion than what we have today. But the first step is to understand what is happening in the existing materials.”

Boeing applied mathematician Nam Nguyen added that despite advances in quantum computing technology, fault-tolerant quantum computers are still under development.

“Therefore, we need to find ways to minimize quantum resource requirements as much as possible to utilize these systems optimally,” he said.

“Working with the IBM team, we found a method to significantly reduce the quantum resources needed to address our problem on IBM quantum hardware. This served as an efficient software compiler for our research, allowing us to utilize the IBM quantum hardware for this research.”

Boeing associate technical fellow Kristen Williams said the team used the IBM quantum hardware to compute energy at a fundamental level. This made the calculations more accurate than the ones chemists currently use, which require a lot of approximation to run on classical computing hardware.

Boeing and IBM researchers plan to expand their work to investigate how quantum computing may shed light on chemical reactions involved in the degradation of materials by their interaction with different kinds of environments.

About the Author(s)

Berenice Baker

Editor, Enter Quantum

Berenice is the editor of Enter Quantum, the companion website and exclusive content outlet for The Quantum Computing Summit. Enter Quantum informs quantum computing decision-makers and solutions creators with timely information, business applications and best practice to enable them to adopt the most effective quantum computing solution for their businesses. Berenice has a background in IT and 16 years’ experience as a technology journalist.

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