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Aresty Research Assistant
Understanding the capabilities and limitations of beyond-binary states in quantum computing
Project Summary
Quantum computing research is at a critical juncture.
Prototype quantum computers are now at a level of reliability and scale where researchers can run small scale algorithms. The fundamentally new paradigm of computing may offer capabilities that would be unimaginable in existing classical computers.

One principle for making quantum computers easier to build and easier to understand is to encode data in binary states (we call these qubit states). In such a simplification, only the lowest two states of a system are considered valid and participate in computation. With this simplification the quantum computer system only has to provide reliable means to transition between the two states, and to provide a way to observe and distinguish two states. Simplifying computing systems to only use two states has also been a useful simplification for classical computer systems.

Nonetheless, many of the physical and technological systems that researchers are exploring to build quantum computers offer more than just binary states. Systems that use three states are said to use "qutrit" states, and ones using in general d-number of states are said to use "qudit" states. Using these additional states can lead to interesting improvements upon known ways to use quantum computers. For example, qutrit states have been shown to enable more efficient communication of information, and have also been shown to enable larger capacity and higher reliability quantum computer programs.

This project intends to build on this progress in two fronts. First is in writing quantum computer programs that take advantage of qudit states. Second is in understanding the feasibility of using these states in real-world quantum computer prototypes.

On the programming aspect, open source quantum computing frameworks such as Google Cirq offer some facilities for writing programs that use qudits. As part of this project you will write a few demonstration programs that show greater communication capabilities when quantum programs make use of qudits.

On the prototypes aspect, the researchers who build quantum computers for public learning and experimentation (e.g., IBM Q) have shared some insights on how the quantum computer systems support qudit states. As part of this project you will help characterize how reliable these states are, how they may be used for programs, and what are the limitations preventing their use.

This interdisciplinary project will provide excellent exposure to computer science topics such as machine learning, quantum computing, and contributing to open source frameworks.

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