Autonomous machine learning boost for quantum sensors

April 29, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
Autonomous machine learning boost for quantum sensors
An autonomous machine learning protocol developed at the University of Bristol reverse engineers Hamiltonian models to boost the development of quantum sensors

Researchers in the UK have developed an autonomous machine learning algorithm that dramatically simplifies quantum systems.

Researchers at the University of Bristol’s Quantum Engineering Technology Labs (QETLabs) developed a new protocol to formulate and validate approximate models for quantum systems of interest.

The Quantum Model Learning Agent (QMLA) algorithm works autonomously, designing and performing experiments on the targeted quantum system, with the resultant data being fed back into the algorithm. It proposes candidate Hamiltonian models to describe the target system, and distinguishes between them using statistical metrics, namely Bayes factors.

The researchers were able to use the algorithm on a real-life quantum experiment involving defect centres in a diamond, a well-studied platform for quantum information processing and quantum sensing.

The algorithm could be used to aid automated characterisation of new devices, such as quantum sensors. This development therefore represents a significant breakthrough in the development of quantum technologies.

“Combining the power of today’s supercomputers with machine learning, we were able to automatically discover structure in quantum systems. As new quantum computers/simulators become available, the algorithm becomes more exciting: first it can help to verify the performance of the device itself, then exploit those devices to understand ever-larger systems,” said Brian Flynn from the QETLabs and Quantum Engineering Centre for Doctoral Training.

“This level of automation makes it possible to entertain myriads of hypothetical models before selecting an optimal one, a task that would be otherwise daunting for systems whose complexity is ever increasing,” said Andreas Gentile, formerly of Bristol’s QETLabs, now at Qu & Co.

“Understanding the underlying physics and the models describing quantum systems, help us to advance our knowledge of technologies suitable for quantum computation and quantum sensing,” said Sebastian Knauer, also formerly of QETLabs and now based at the University of Vienna’s Faculty of Physics.

“In the past we have relied on the genius and hard work of scientists to uncover new physics. Here the team have potentially turned a new page in scientific investigation by bestowing machines with the capability to learn from experiments and discover new physics. The consequences could be far reaching indeed,” said Anthony Laing, co-Director of QETLabs and Associate Professor in Bristol’s School of Physics.

The next step for the research is to extend the algorithm to explore larger systems, and different classes of quantum models which represent different physical regimes or underlying structures.

www.bristol.ac.ukdx.doi.org/10.1038/s41567-021-01201-7

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Picture: 
The nitrogen vacancy centre set-up, that was used for the first experimental demonstration of QMLA.

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