Researchers Develop the World’s Fastest Quantum Simulator

Schematic Explanation of World's Fastest Quantum Simulator. Image credits: NINS/IMS

A team of researchers have developed the world’s fastest quantum simulator that operates at the atomic level and simulates the interactions between many particles within one-billionth of a second.

The project has attracted huge investment and is part of a collection of projects that are now focusing on the development of new quantum simulators.

The interaction of electrons is the basis for molecular interactions within any system. Without it, the physical and chemical phenomena that we experience in everyday life, such as magnetism, superconductivity and chemical reactions, would not be possible. To understand the dynamics of any molecular system, the first principles that govern these processes must be understood.

A quantum simulator arranges the atoms in a system into an ensemble of interacting particles. This is known as a ‘strongly correlated system’. Within these systems, the properties are known and tunable. The dynamic interactions are then simulated to understand the unknown properties of other systems.

Understanding how large strongly correlated systems interact and behave is one of the many challenges facing modern day science. Scientific research hasn’t possessed the computing power to handle the complex simulation dynamics of these interactions.

Even the worlds next potential biggest supercomputer, known as the Post-K, which is a computing system that functions above 11 petaflops, is unable to calculate the energy of the system when the particle number exceeds 30.

quantum simulator
Schematic Explanation of World’s Fastest Quantum Simulator. Image credits: NINS/IMS

To overcome the problems associated with computational expense and the limiting factors of computational power, scientists have developed a quantum simulator using a pulsed laser light.

This method is based around irradiating atoms to form ‘Rydberg atoms’. Irradiation promotes an electron from the core of an atom to a high-energy orbital. This orbital is also known as a ‘Rydberg orbital’.

The irradiation of the atoms increases the diameter of the atomic orbital from 0.6 nanometers to hundreds of nanometers. The increased distance between the positively charged core and the negatively charged outer electron generates a long-range electric field.

Through building an ensemble of Rydberg atoms, the system becomes a strongly correlated system where multiple interactions are present between individual atoms.

Until recently, the observation of the Rydberg atoms in quantum simulations has been a difficult endeavour. There are currently two issues surrounding Rydberg systems – A phenomena known as Rydberg blockade, which is where there should only be one Rydberg orbital present; and the interaction of Rydberg systems occurring 100,000 times quicker than it is physically possible to detect.

To overcome the limiting factors, the researchers irradiated rubidium samples with a pulsed laser under temperature conditions close to absolute zero. The new pulsed laser quantum simulator possesses a wavelength that is wider by a factor of 1 million, and shines for only 10 picoseconds at a time.

The pulsed wavelength excites an electron into a Rydberg state, even if there are other Rydberg atoms, eliminating the issues of the Rydberg blockade. The temporal pulse-width is one tenth of the temporal evolution of the system, which allows for the observation of real-time interactions. As such, it is the fastest quantum simulator that has been developed to date.

This process has not only detected more than 40 atoms within one billionth of a second, but the researchers have also simulated the motion of the electrons within this strongly correlated system.


Even though it is in its infancy, the potential of this research is huge. Future research aims to design simulation platform that could be used to design magnetic materials, superconducting materials and specific drug molecules.

It is also expected to be used as a tool to understand the physical properties in the phenomena that we observe nowadays, such as superconductivity, magnetism and chemical reactions.

Source Nature Communications Science Daily IMS Japan

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