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Microsoft’s new Copenhagen lab accelerates quantum materials research

Microsoft is pleased to announce the recent opening of our new Quantum Materials Laboratory in Copenhagen, Denmark, on September 21. We have high expectations for the new lab. It’s where the heart of our quantum computer—the topological qubit—will be developed under the direction of Scientific Director Peter Krogstrup.

Reporting to Krogstrup is a team of skilled mechanical engineers, materials scientists, and quantum physicists. Together, they’re synthesizing ultra-clean quantum crystals, the building blocks of future quantum computers. The Copenhagen lab will supply these crystals to Microsoft Quantum labs located in Delft, the Netherlands; Sydney, Australia; Santa Barbara, California; and other locations.

Adults and children congregating outside the the glass walls of the Quantum Materials Lab

It’s fitting that Copenhagen should host this groundbreaking new lab. After all, it was Danish physicist Hans Christian Oersted who in 1820 discovered the link between electricity and magnetism—a breakthrough that in time helped lead to the use of electricity to run our world. Another Danish scientist, Niels Bohr, received a Nobel prize in physics in 1922 for his work on quantum theory. Bohr later founded the Institute of Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen. Our new quantum lab will lead to discoveries that are equally groundbreaking.

Given that people such as Oersted and Bohr are household names in Denmark—with streets and parks named for them—it wasn’t surprising that the opening of our new lab was a newsworthy event. Danish Minister of Higher Education and Science Tommy Ahlers was among those attending, and later joked on Twitter about a TV interview he gave: “Everything was going fine until they asked me to explain the physics behind quantum computing!”

Materials scientists using state of the art lab equipment to synthesize quantum crystals

Child observing the Microsoft Quantum team at workBeyond research and development, another role for the new Copenhagen lab is to help educate the public on the field of quantum computing. It’s been designed such that passersby, families with children, students, and others can see researchers at work behind large glass windows creating materials that will make scalable quantum computing possible. The lab’s neighbor is the Technical University of Denmark, where half of Denmark’s engineers are trained. Students there are finding inspiration in the Microsoft lab and charting their own futures around quantum computing.

The Microsoft Quantum Materials Lab’s impressive array of scientific equipment speaks to the exciting research it’s tackling. One of the problems researchers there will investigate is how to create quantum states that are more easily interpreted. “Quantum states are extremely fragile and therefore very difficult to maintain and read,” lab director Krogstrup says. “And quantum materials must be perfect. That means not one atom can lie in the wrong place—literally. This is among the things we need to do more research in.”

Quantum computing is a complex concept and can be a challenge for people to wrap their heads around. But the potential of the field is clear—creating computers far more powerful than anything available today, with the ability to solve some of the most difficult computing problems imaginable. We look forward to delivering that reality with the Quantum Materials Lab.

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Learn the Q# programming language at your own pace with the new open source Microsoft Quantum Katas project

For those who want to explore quantum computing and learn the Q# programming language at their own pace, we have created the Quantum Katas – an open source project containing a series of programming exercises that provide immediate feedback as you progress.

Coding katas are great tools for learning a programming language. They rely on several simple learning principles: active learning, incremental complexity growth, and feedback.

The Microsoft Quantum Katas are a series of self-paced tutorials aimed at teaching elements of quantum computing and Q# programming at the same time. Each kata offers a sequence of tasks on a certain quantum computing topic, progressing from simple to challenging. Each task requires you to fill in some code; the first task might require just one line, and the last one might require a sizable fragment of code. A testing framework validates your solutions, providing real-time feedback.

Working with the Quantum Katas in Visual Studio
Working with the Quantum Katas in Visual Studio

Programming competitions are another great way to test your quantum computing skills. Earlier this month, we ran the first Q# coding contest and the response was tremendous. More than 650 participants from all over the world joined the contest or the warmup round held the week prior. More than 350 contest participants solved at least one problem, while 100 participants solved all fifteen problems! The contest winner solved all problems in less than 2.5 hours. You can find problem sets for the warmup round and main contest by following the links below. The Quantum Katas include the problems offered in the contest, so you can try solving them at your own pace.

We hope you find the Quantum Katas project useful in learning Q# and quantum computing. As we work on expanding the set of topics covered in the katas, we look forward to your feedback and contributions!

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Updated Quantum Development Kit brings faster simulations, enhanced debugging

This post was authored with contributions by Cathy Palmer, Program Manager, Quantum Software & Services.

Today, Microsoft released an update to the Microsoft Quantum Development Kit including an enhanced debugging experience and faster simulations, as well as several contributions from the Q# community. We’re excited about the momentum generated by the many new Q# developers joining us in building a new generation of quantum computing.

Just over six months ago, we released a preview of Q#, our new programming language for quantum development featuring rich integration with Visual Studio. The February 26 release added integration with Visual Studio Code to support Q# development on macOS and Linux as well as Python interoperability for Windows. Since then, tens of thousands of developers have begun to explore Q# and the world of quantum development.

Today’s update includes significant performance improvements for simulations, regardless of the number of qubits required, as shown in the H2 simulation below. This is a standard sample included in the Microsoft Quantum Development Kit.

Simulation comparison

This update includes new debugging functionality within Visual Studio. The probability of measuring a “1” on a qubit is now automatically shown in the Visual Studio debugging window, making it easier to check the accuracy of your code. The release also improves the display of variable properties, enhancing the readability of the quantum state.

Screen showing enhanced debugging

Adding to the new debugging improvements, you’ll find two new functions that output probability information related to the target quantum machine at a specified point in time, called DumpMachine and DumpRegister. To learn more, you can review this additional information on debugging quantum programs.

Thanks to your community contributions, the Microsoft Quantum Development Kit now includes new helper functions and operations, plus new samples to improve the onboarding and debugging experience. Check out the release notes for a full list of contributions.

Download the latest Microsoft Quantum Development Kit

We’ve been thrilled with the participation, contributions, and inspiring work of the Q# community. We can’t wait to see what you do next.

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Director of Quantum Computing Julie Love: Microsoft making progress on quantum computer ‘every day’

Microsoft is “all-in” on building a quantum computer and is making advancements “every day”, according to one of the company’s top experts on the technology.

Julie Love (above), Director of Quantum Computing, called the firm’s push to build the next generation of computer technology “one of the biggest disruptive bets we have made as a company”.

Quantum computing has the potential to help humans tackle some of the world’s biggest problems in areas such as materials science, chemistry, genetics, medicine and the environment. It uses the physics of qubits to create a way of computing that can work on specific kinds of problems that are impossible with today’s computers. In theory, a problem that would take today’s machines billions of years to solve could be completed by a quantum computer in minutes, hours or days.

While Microsoft has noted that no one has yet built a working quantum computer, Love said the company has the right team in place to make progress and eventually create a system and software that can tackle real-world issues. Over the past decade, Microsoft has built a team comprised of some of the greatest minds in quantum physics, mathematics, computer science and engineering. It is also working with some of the leading experts in universities across the world.

“Quantum computers could solve a set of problems that are completely intractable to humans at this time, and it could do so in 100 seconds,” she said during a speech at London Tech Week. “Microsoft’s enterprise customers are interested in changing their businesses using this technology, and we have set our sights beyond the hype cycle. We have a good understanding of what’s needed.

“Microsoft is working on the only scalable solution, one that will run seamlessly on the Azure cloud, and be much more immune to errors. The truth is that not all qubits are equal; most are inherently unstable and susceptible to error-creating noise from the environment. Our approach uses topological qubits specifically for their higher accuracy, lower cost and ability to perform long enough to solve complex real-world problems.”

Microsoft is the only major company attempting to build topological qubits, which aims to significantly reduce any interference at a subatomic level that might affect the machine. With this approach, the computational qubits will be “corrected” by the other qubits.

“When we run systems, there are trade-offs in power, because they have to be very cold. However, we get higher compute capabilities,” said Love, who started studying quantum computing in the late-1990s.

Last year, Microsoft released a Quantum Development Kit, which includes its Q# programming language for people who want to start writing applications for a quantum computer. These can be tested in Microsoft’s online simulator. Q# is designed for developers who are keen to learn how to program on these machines whether or not they are experts in the field of quantum physics.

“We have released the Quantum Development Kit so developers can learn to program a quantum computer and join us on this journey,” Love added.

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