In the European research project Quantum Computer Science (QCS), starting on 1 October, a European consortium will focus on research into the applications of quantum computing. The consortium is headed by Andris Ambainis from the University of Riga (Latvia) and comprises eight European research institutes*, including the Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI). A central objective of the project entails the development of new quantum algorithms and other applications. CWI is coordinating one of the research programmes.
Research in the field of quantum computer science is dominated by two key questions: What will a quantum computer be able to solve, and can we build a quantum computer? Computer scientists and mathematicians are examining new applications, concentrating in particular on which specific tasks a quantum computer can execute more effectively than an ordinary computer. The construction of a usable quantum computer is still a long way away, but research into new areas of application is an important motivating factor for the further development thereof. Already known key applications of quantum computers include breaking commonly used security systems such as RSA and rapidly search large databases.
The QCS research project consists of three programmes: research into the development of new and efficient quantum algorithms, quantum communication and the application of ideas from quantum computer science in classical computer science (and vice versa). The research is theoretical in nature, but potentially interesting for uses in cryptography, for example.
Ronald de Wolf (CWI) is coordinating the programme that is studying applications of quantum computer science with classical computer science. An example of this is the analysis of specific error-correcting codes. These codes, which originate from classical computer science, automatically correct errors in data saved within systems and devices we use on a daily basis (e.g. telephones and PCs). Ideas stemming from quantum computer science have demonstrated new limitations of such codes.
The CWI research group Algorithms and Complexity, headed by Harry Buhrman, has already made significant contributions to all components of the project and is one of the leading groups worldwide in the field of quantum computing. Buhrman has shown, for example, that quantum communication enables some computational problems between distributed parties to be resolved far more efficiently than with classical communication.
*Latvijas Universitate, University of Bristol, Université Paris-Sud X1, Centrum Wiskunde & informatica, Tel Aviv University, Universit’e Libre de Bruxelles, Institut de Ciencies Fotoniques, Cambridge University (UK).