More than half of the energy the world produces is wasted. Even worse, the biggest contributor to this waste is in the process of energy production itself. However, quantum machine learning and nanotechnology could unlock the solution to the ever-growing energy crisis that affects over 1.2 billion people.

Turbines convert mechanical energy into usable electricity using a thermal gradient, however, this requires energy to be spent on continuously cooling the apparatus. The cooling process requires a significant amount of energy, which means that a large portion of the energy that the turbines generate is spent on keeping the generation process going. This explains why steam turbines lose nearly two thirds of the energy they produce to wasted energy.

To approach this project, we developed one of the largest molecular simulations ever run on a universal quantum system. We used several research papers (https://arxiv.org/pdf/1304.3061.pdf, https://arxiv.org/pdf/1704.05018.pdf) in developing the hamiltonian of a helium hydride molecule. We utilized several Python libraries to create our simulation, including Rigetti’s PyQuil and Tensorflow. The end product was a Python program (https://github.com/Tommy-Moffat/ML-VQE) which successfully simulated helium hydride and proved generalizability to much more complex molecules. This is a key result because although we were operating on one of the most advanced quantum computers in the world, the technology doesn’t yet support larger simulations. However, we’ve developed software that will operate on larger quantum computers in the near future and have the capacity to generate significantly more complex molecules that will drastically impact the way we harness energy.

What inspired you (or your team)?

Natural biological processes like ATP synthesis have evolved to convert kinetic energy into chemical energy at almost 100% efficiency. We were amazed by nature’s ability to do something incredibly powerful in a very simple way, which inspired us to design synthetic molecular machines that use a similar chemical processes. With the huge leaps being made in quantum technologies, we’re really excited about optimizing these nanostructures so they can produce usable electricity from the kinetic energy generated by modern power plants, giving them the potential to triple their efficiency and reduce their environmental impact to one third!