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Microsoft moves closer to engineering its first quantum supercomputer

Microsoft moves closer to engineering its first quantum supercomputer


Microsoft's Azure Quantum development lab

Goal of new Azure Quantum Elements solution is to compress 250 years’ worth of scientific discovery into 25, says CEO Satya Nadella

Amber Hickman |

Microsoft is launching Azure Quantum Elements as part of its commitment to advancing the Azure Quantum solution that aim to accelerate scientific discovery.

Azure Quantum Elements aims to use Azure High Performance Computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence to accelerate chemical and materials science through automated workflows and data visualisation.

This will enable scientists to accelerate the research and development pipeline, increase the scale of the search for new materials and speed up certain chemistry simulations by 500,000 times. The service will also help scientists prepare for scaled quantum computing with access to current quantum hardware as well as Microsoft’s future quantum supercomputer.

“Our goal is to compress the next 250 years of chemistry and materials science progress into the next 25,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft during the official announcement.

A select number of firms including Johnson Matthey, 1910 Genetics and AspenTech are already using the service, which will be available for private preview on 30 June.

“I felt like I was working on a backlog all the time, and now I can get these projects moving and make an impact on experimental work that’s happening now as opposed to coming in a bit later in the development cycle,” said Misbah Sarwar, research lead for Johnson Matthey’s physical and chemical modelling team, which is currently using simulations to develop sustainable technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells.

Microsoft is also adding Copilot to Azure Quantum, which will help scientists use natural language processing to generate calculations and simulations, visualise data and receive guided answers to complicated concepts.

Microsoft’s goal is to develop a quantum supercomputer, which will allow science organisations to design new chemicals and materials and solve some of the most complex problems to date. Microsoft has achieved the first milestone towards this goal with a breakthrough in creating and controlling Majorana quasiparticles, which could potentially make reliable quantum bits (qubits) for helping computers process information, presented in a journal by the American Physical Society.

The advancement of Microsoft’s quantum services are in line with its responsible AI roadmap, according to Jason Zander, executive vice president of strategic missions and technologies at Microsoft, who wrote a blog post outlining the Azure Quantum updates.

“With the advent of any innovative technology, there are risks that need to be planned for and mitigated,” he said. “Microsoft’s AI principles guide us and these fundamental tenets apply to quantum as well. As we develop new services like Azure Quantum Elements and engineer our first quantum supercomputer, we will apply additional measures of rigor incorporating feedback throughout the process.”

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