Cambridge Quantum and German Aerospace Center Partner on Quantum Computing for Better Battery Design

August 03, 2021 by Alessandro Mascellino

Cambridge Quantum Computing (CQC) has entered a new partnership with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) to research improved simulation models for battery development.

The collaboration will see the deployment of quantum machine learning algorithms to be utilized to develop multi-scale simulations of a whole battery cell. The move represents one of the first endeavors to combine near-term quantum computing and partial differential equation models for battery simulation.

Solar panels and wind turbines. Image used courtesy of CQC.

Improving Battery Simulation Designs

Following the start of the new collaboration, DLR will utilize CQC’s quantum algorithms to solve partial differential equation (PDE) systems and consequently render a 1D simulation of a lithium-ion battery cell.

The project will pave the way for one of the first multi-scale simulations of complete battery cells executed utilizing quantum computers.

The technology is widely considered a viable alternative for rendering full 3D models, but very few attempts have been so far tried in this direction due to the vast computational power required by quantum operations.

For context, the term multi-scale refers to those approaches gathering information from different system levels (e.g. atomistic, molecular, and macroscopic) to make simulations both more manageable and realistic. This approach can also potentially accelerate battery research and development for a variety of sustainable energy solutions and varied applications.

“We would like to improve the performance of the [Li-ion] battery, which means how much energy they can store without compromising on safety,” explained Mattia Fiorentini, head of machine learning and quantum algorithms at CQC.

Mattia Fiorentini. Image used courtesy of CQC.

These include mobile and portable applications like smartphones and wearable electronics, but also electric cars, decentralized solar storage, and frequency stabilization of the energy grid.

A Quantum-focussed Partnership

Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, also known as DLR, is Germany’s national aeronautics and space research center.

The institution, which comprises 55 research institutes and facilities across the country, has in the past used classical computer modeling to research a range of different battery types.

Cambridge Quantum Computing, on the other hand, was founded in 2014 by Ilyas Khan, and specifically focuses on the development and improvement of quantum computing hardware.

The partnership DLR will now see the firm render its quantum simulations on an IBM Q quantum machine utilizing CQC’s software development framework. The ensuing simulations will be executed on NISQ (Noisy Intermediate-Scale Quantum) computers.

CQC, which has offices in the UK, USA, and Japan, has in the last few years raised a total of $72.8 million from several investors, including IBM Ventures, Honeywell Venture Capital, and JSR Corp.

“The high prize we are aiming at is really to try to prove something similar to the computational fluid dynamics domain,” Fiorentini added, “which is to find an aspect of a battery or a particular design of the battery where… we can prove [quantum computers] have an advantage.”