New study uses machine learning to bridge the reality gap in quantum devices | Science & Technology

A study led by the University of Oxford has used the power of machine learning to overcome a key challenge affecting quantum devices. For the first time, the findings reveal a way to close the ‘reality gap’: the difference between predicted and observed behaviour from quantum devices. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

Quantum computing could supercharge a wealth of applications, from climate modelling and financial forecasting, to drug discovery and artificial intelligence. But this will require effective ways to scale and combine individual quantum devices (also called qubits). A major barrier against this is inherent variability: where even apparently identical units exhibit different behaviours.

Functional variability is presumed to be caused by nanoscale imperfections in the materials that quantum devices are made from. Since there is no way to measure these directly, this internal disorder cannot be captured in simulations, leading to the gap in predicted and observed outcomes.

To address this, the research group used a “physics-informed” machine learning approach to infer these disorder characteristics indirectly. This was based on how the internal disorder affected the flow of electrons through the device.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Natalia Ares (Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford) said: ‘As an analogy, when we play “crazy golf” the ball may enter a tunnel and exit with a speed or direction that doesn’t match our predictions. But with a few more shots, a crazy golf simulator, and some machine learning, we might get better at predicting the ball’s movements and narrow the reality gap.’

The researchers measured the output current for different voltage settings across an individual quantum dot device. The data was input into a simulation which calculated the difference between the measured current with the theoretical current if no internal disorder was present. By measuring the current at many different…

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