Funding & Projects

RLQuantOpt (2023–2025) – Research Excellence Program 2023

Reinforcement learning for quantum optimal control (RLQuantOpt)

A project funded through the MCST Fusion R&I Research Excellence Programme 2023

Noisy intermediate-scale quantum (NISQ) computers are shifting the paradigm of information processing from the classical bit to the quantum bit (qubit) thanks to the intrinsic massive parallelization they can offer. Quantum computers therefore hold the potential to be amongst the most disruptive technologies of the 21st century. The power of quantum computing is made possible by the complexity of quantum states that can be created, manipulated, and measured by a quantum computer. NISQ computers operate by applying a set of quantum gates to an initial state to achieve a final state that encodes the solution to a computationally hard problem, e.g. evaluating the energy of a molecule or the shortest path in a travelling salesman problem. 

Implementing multi-qubit gates efficiently with high fidelity is essential for achieving universal fault tolerant computing. Quantum optimal control enables the realisation of accurate operations, such as quantum gates, and supports the development of quantum technologies. A key figure of merit of the performance of a quantum gate is the fidelity, which is a measure of the distance between the quantum state after the application of the quantum gate and a desired target state. Unfortunately, state-of-the-art quantum gate fidelities are too low for the application of a sufficient number of gates in order to attain the solution of such complex problems. Quantum optimal control theory is deemed to be the cornerstone for enabling quantum technologies by devising and implementing the shapes of the electromagnetic pulses that drive the evolution from the initial to the final quantum state.

The RLQuantOpt project proposes to improve the fidelity of quantum gates and circuits using deep reinforcement learning (RL) techniques to optimise the pulses which generate these gates. After training a number of RL agents in a simulated environment, the best agents will be calibrated and evaluated on a physical quantum computer. The RLQuantOpt project will have a significant impact on improving the operational availability of quantum computers in a hardware independent manner, as less time will be required for calibration and running benchmarks, as well as other aspects such as gate synthesis. 

The RLQuantOpt project is an interdisciplinary one, relying on the collaboration and expertise of two departments within the University of Malta. The research team is led by Prof Ing Gianluca Valentino from the Department of Communications and Computer Engineering and Dr Tony Apollaro from the Department of Physics, and includes Dr Leander Grech and Mr Mirko Consiglio.

Project RLQuantOpt financed by the Malta Council for Science & Technology, for and on behalf of the Foundation for Science and Technology, through the FUSION: R&I Research Excellence Programme.

QUANGO (2020–2023) – Horizon 2020
 Lead researcher: André Xuereb

Secure and reliable exchange of data and information plays a crucial role in our society. Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) aims at overcoming the current classical cryptographic systems, preventing the vulnerabilities led by the advent of quantum computers. The EU-funded project QUANGO aims at designing and prototyping the key elements of a satellite mission that targets the delivery of both internet of things (IoT) and QKD services. QUANGO will provide a new paradigm to share the satellite infrastructure required for secure communication based on QKD and for 5G communication. It will do this by designing a constellation of low-earth orbit CubeSat and by developing the satellite sub-system payloads, along with the corresponding ground stations. This project is funded by the European Commission through its Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, grant no. 101004341.

HOT (2016–2021) – Horizon 2020
 Lead researcher: André Xuereb

We are part of the 17-node consortium HOT—Hybrid Optomechanical Technologies, which includes 13 universities and four companies. HOT which will lay the foundation for a new generation of devices that connect or contain several nanoscale platforms in a single ‘hybrid’ system. This project is funded by the European Commission through its Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, grant no. 732894.

TOM – Julian Schwinger Foundation
 Investigators: André Xuereb & Vittorio Peano

We received funding to investigate optomechanical arrays as a platform for the amplification, processing, and routing of phonons. This programme will aim to exploit topological effects in such arrays, which were discovered recently.

SEQUEL (2019–2021) – North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
 Lead researcher: André Xuereb

Through its Science for Peace and Security programme, NATO is funding our collaboration with INRIM and INO in Italy to further our work on connecting Malta and Sicily through a quantum link.

Research Innovation and Development Trust (RIDT)
 Lead researcher: André Xuereb

The RIDT funded a collaboration of ours with IQOQI (Austria), and CNR and INRIM (Italy) to set up quantum experiments between Malta and Sicily.

European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST)

We are members of several COST Actions, where we often have leadership roles: Thermodynamics in the Quantum Regime (MP1209, now defunct), Nanoscale Quantum Optics (MP1403), Quantum Structure of Spacetime (MP1405), and Quantum Technologies in Space (CA15220). We regularly host short-term scientific missions sponsored by one of these COST Actions, and have organised conferences and workshops: COST MP1403 ESR Workshop (2015), COST MP1209 Working Group Meeting (2016), and QTspace Conference & Working Group Meeting (2017).