NSF QLCI: Hybrid Quantum Architectures and Networks

One way quantum information science and engineering research has the potential to transform society is through the development of quantum computers that can complete certain critical tasks faster than classical computers. Such devices could also provide new applications inaccessible to conventional technologies. For example, a large-scale quantum computer could simulate the properties of energy-harvesting molecules and optimize logistics such as nurse scheduling more quickly and at scales currently unapproachable by supercomputers. However, state-of-the-art quantum devices are too small and lack the features needed to fully realize this promise. Currently, researchers and companies world-wide are pursuing approaches for scaling-up quantum processors using a single core quantum technology. While there has been significant achievements, the pathway to a quantum computer or information network that can outperform classical technologies and provide useful solutions is unknown. The NSF QLCI Hybrid Quantum Architectures and Networks will tackle the challenge of scaling quantum processors by pursuing an alternative paradigm: distributed quantum processing and networks composed of a hybrid architecture. 

National Science Foundation


Midwest research and education powerhouses


Academic scientists advancing distributed quantum computing and networks


Private sector companies and government lab collaborators


Research award from the National Science Foundation



The NSF QLCI Hybrid Quantum Architectures and Networks will tackle the scaling quantum processors challenge by pursuing an alternative paradigm: distributed quantum processing and networks composed of a hybrid architecture. Nodes consisting of a modest number of quantum bits will be connected by quantum links. This modular approach leverages the strengths of different quantum systems and has the potential to unlock quantum information processing at large scales. New distributed applications enabled by this approach may include unconditionally secure information searching and multi-party computation. The center will support robust education, research coordination, community engagement, and industrial partnership programs that will address the quantum workforce challenge at all levels and promote the quantum technologies ecosystem.

photo of glass cell close up

(Credit: Bernien Lab)

Over five years, the center will carry out fundamental science research and engineering to develop a multi-node, full-stack system, ranging from quantum processor design and control to a high-level software application interface. A convergent approach will be pursued by bringing together researchers with expertise from chemistry, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, mathematics, materials science and engineering, molecular engineering, and physics. Three tightly integrated focus research areas will be pursued.

The first Major Activity (MA1) will center on developing multi-node heterogeneous networks based on proven technologies (atomic ions, neutral atom arrays, and superconducting circuits) with the capacity for distributed processing. This effort will advance hybrid interconnect technologies and deploy multi-node testbeds at each participating institution.

The second Major Activity (MA2) will develop a distributed computing software stack, multi-node information protocols, and new use-cases that are optimized for these hybrid networks. These protocols, such as private quantum searching and quantum fingerprinting, will leverage the scalability and unconditional network security advantages of a heterogeneous distributed architecture for new applications.

The third Major Activity (MA3) will encompass creating next-generation protected qubits with enhanced performance and integrating these devices into the center testbeds.  All thrusts will employ a co-design approach with collaboration, iteration, and co-location of researchers from different disciplines. The center's technology, research, and software advancements will provide the foundation for a multi-node heterogeneous distributed processor and network with functionalities that surpass a single-platform architecture