Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is continuing an aggressive program to stretch the limits of current computational technology. LANL is a participant in the NNSA Trinity supercomputer procurement with hardware already installed. In addition, LANL has just announced the purchase of a D-Wave 2X Quantum Computer. The D-Wave 2X system is expected to be installed at Los Alamos in early 2016.
“As conventional computers reach their limits in terms of scaling and performance per watt, we need to investigate new technologies to support our mission,” said Mark Anderson of the Laboratory’s Weapons Physics Directorate. “Researching and evaluating quantum annealing as the basis for new approaches to address intractable problems is an essential and powerful step, and will enable a new generation of forward thinkers to influence its evolution in a direction most beneficial to the nation.”
The D-Wave quantum annealing technology leverages quantum effects to quickly find the lowest points in a virtual “energy landscape.” A huge number of problems can be expressed as optimization problems that can theoretically then be solved with a quantum computer. The Traveling Salesman Problem is a famous example, Quantum cryptography and the ability to break encryption is a very highly sought-after national security issue as can be see in the following quote from the LANL Quantum Computing page.
. . . the development of a fully operational quantum computer would demolish the concept of national security. Whichever country gets there first will have the ability to eavesdrop on the plans of its enemies. Although still in its infancy, quantum computing presents a potential threat to global security.
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