Quantum-in-the-loop: A new interface that connects power grids and quantum computers

This interface can bridge the gap between theory and experiment by allowing researchers to conduct real-time quantum-in-the-loop experiments.
Tejasri Gururaj
Real-time communication between power grid equipment and quantum computers.
Real-time communication between power grid equipment and quantum computers.


Power grid equipment can now be interfaced with quantum computers!

Power grids are becoming increasingly complex as the number of ways to supply and generate energy expands. This makes classical computers overwhelmed and unable to handle the computational needs of power systems. 

But, quantum computers offer hope as they can handle a large number of computations in a short amount of time. Quantum computing research is happening at light speed, and there is a potential for their use to optimize power grids. 

Researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in collaboration with RTDS Technologies Inc. and Atom Computing, have developed an open-source software interface that connects quantum computers to power research equipment.

The interface allows for quantum-in-the-loop experiments, where quantum computers are used to address complex optimization problems in power systems that classical supercomputers struggle to solve efficiently.

Why quantum computers?

Previously, scientists have researched the use of quantum computers for increasing grid performance and ensuring secure communication of power systems.

Quantum computers, with their unique capabilities based on quantum physics principles like superposition and entanglement, show promise in efficiently solving such optimization problems. However, one of the challenges has been realizing quantum systems capable of performing these tasks efficiently and reliably at a scale necessary for practical implementation.

Quantum-in-the-loop: A new interface that connects power grids and quantum computers
This project was a collaboration between NREL, RTDS Technologies Inc., and Atom Computing, and was funded by the Department of Energy.

Talking about the need for quantum computers for optimizing power systems, Sayonsom Chanda, a power system engineer at NREL, said in a press release, "With the huge amount of ways energy can now be generated and supplied, it is very important to handle so many inputs and outputs."

"But classical computing-based optimizers are not designed to handle an exponential scale-up in input parameters that the industry is expected to witness in the next two decades. We're talking millions of inputs and outputs; that's when classical computers start showing their limits, and quantum computers their benefits."


The quantum-in-the-loop framework enables researchers to translate optimization problems into quantum variables and communicate with power system simulations in real time. 

This connection allows scientists to evaluate the types of problems that quantum computers can effectively solve and conduct live experiments to explore potential solutions.

Scientists have bridged the gap between experiment and theory by creating this user-friendly and open-source interface.

The demonstration of the open-source interface took place near Boulder, Colorado, where NREL's Advanced Research on Integrated Energy Systems (ARIES) was used as a realistic power system environment for the quantum-in-the-loop experiments. The interface links NREL's real-time grid simulators with Atom Computing's quantum emulator and prototype system. 

The NREL team published a paper detailing the various parts of the interface's design and an example of charging coordination for electric vehicles

In the same press release, said Rob Hovsapian, an ARIES research advisor, said, "To assess the security of next-generation communication protocols and validate current and future quantum algorithms, it is critical to establish a real-world emulation environment with actual hardware and high-speed communication. This is precisely what we have developed at ARIES with quantum in-the-loop."

NREL, RTDS Technologies Inc., and Atom Computing have taken the first step to test ARIES, which is as close to reality as possible for power system experiments.

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