Over the past few years, quantum computing has experienced a growth not only in the construction of quantum hardware, but also in the development of quantum algorithms. With the availability of Noisy Intermediate Scale Quantum (NISQ) computers (devices with ~50 - 100 qubits and high fidelity quantum gates), the development of algorithms to understand the power of these machines is of increasing importance. However, a common problem when designing a quantum algorithm on a NISQ processor is how to take full advantage of these limited quantum devices—using resources to solve the hardest part of the problem rather than on overheads from poor mappings between the algorithm and hardware. Furthermore some quantum processors have complex geometric constraints and other nuances, and ignoring these will either result in faulty quantum computation, or a computation that is modified and sub-optimal.*
First International Workshop on Quantum Software and Quantum Machine Learning (QSML), the Google AI Quantum team announced the public alpha of Cirq, an open source framework for NISQ computers. Cirq is focused on near-term questions and helping researchers understand whether NISQ quantum computers are capable of solving computational problems of practical importance. Cirq is licensed under Apache 2, and is free to be modified or embedded in any commercial or open source package.
Once installed, Cirq enables researchers to write quantum algorithms for specific quantum processors. Cirq gives users fine tuned control over quantum circuits, specifying gate behavior using native gates, placing these gates appropriately on the device, and scheduling the timing of these gates within the constraints of the quantum hardware. Data structures are optimized for writing and compiling these quantum circuits to allow users to get the most out of NISQ architectures. Cirq supports running these algorithms locally on a simulator, and is designed to easily integrate with future quantum hardware or larger simulators via the cloud.
We are also announcing the release of OpenFermion-Cirq, an example of a Cirq based application enabling near-term algorithms. OpenFermion is a platform for developing quantum algorithms for chemistry problems, and OpenFermion-Cirq is an open source library which compiles quantum simulation algorithms to Cirq. The new library uses the latest advances in building low depth quantum algorithms for quantum chemistry problems to enable users to go from the details of a chemical problem to highly optimized quantum circuits customized to run on particular hardware. For example, this library can be used to easily build quantum variational algorithms for simulating properties of molecules and complex materials.
Quantum computing will require strong cross-industry and academic collaborations if it is going to realize its full potential. In building Cirq, we worked with early testers to gain feedback and insight into algorithm design for NISQ computers. Below are some examples of Cirq work resulting from these early adopters:
- Zapata Computing: simulation of a quantum autoencoder (example code, video tutorial)
- QC Ware: QAOA implementation and integration into QC Ware’s AQUA platform (example code, video tutorial)
- Quantum Benchmark: integration of True-Q software tools for assessing and extending hardware capabilities (video tutorial)
- Heisenberg Quantum Simulations: simulating the Anderson Model
- Cambridge Quantum Computing: integration of proprietary quantum compiler t|ket> (video tutorial)
- NASA: architecture-aware compiler based on temporal-planning for QAOA (slides) and simulator of quantum computers (slides)
Today, the Google AI Quantum team is using Cirq to create circuits that run on Google’s Bristlecone processor. In the future, we plan to make this processor available in the cloud, and Cirq will be the interface in which users write programs for this processor. In the meantime, we hope Cirq will improve the productivity of NISQ algorithm developers and researchers everywhere. Please check out the GitHub repositories for Cirq and OpenFermion-Cirq — pull requests welcome!
By Alan Ho, Product Lead and Dave Bacon, Software Lead, Google AI Quantum Team
We would like to thank Craig Gidney for leading the development of Cirq, Ryan Babbush and Kevin Sung for building OpenFermion-Cirq and a whole host of code contributors to both frameworks.
* An analogous situation is how early classical programmers needed to run complex programs in very small memory spaces by paying careful attention to the lowest level details of the hardware.↩