May 31, 2024

Winners of Quantum City Challenge unveil solutions for key energy questions

UCalgary competition brings together leading research teams in academia and industry to focus quantum science on big challenges in energy management and environmental remediation
A group of people standing in front of a quantum presentation

The Quantum City Challenge recently crowned its champions at Inventures 2024, showcasing novel solutions that harness the potential power of quantum technology to address the energy industry’s challenges. 

The Quantum City Challenge was a worldwide competition launched in November 2023 by the University of Calgary’s Quantum City, Alberta’s global quantum solutions hub. The challenge was designed to connect the Alberta energy industry with leading quantum computing research teams in academia and industry, to work on real-world problems. Quantum City teamed up with ATCO’s SpaceLab and Canadian Natural and worked alongside Amazon Web Services to facilitate the competition. 

  • From left: Megan Lee, managing director at Quantum City; Adam Bene Watts, scientist in residence at Quantum City; Gili Rosenberg, AWS; Andrea Klaiber-Langen, ATCO; JohnPaul Portelli, Canadian Natural.

Smart charging of electric vehicles track

A headshot of a man

Dimitris G. Angelakis, founder and chief scientist, AngelQ.

In the smart charging of electric vehicles track, designed by ATCO SpaceLab in collaboration with Quantum City, participants were asked to optimize a charging schedule for electric vehicles (EVs) while respecting overall constraints on a network's power capacity. 

The winning submission was from AngelQ, a Singapore-based quantum computing startup. The team adapted a qubit-efficient optimization algorithm to the proposed EV charge scheduling task, demonstrating it was possible to solve reasonably large-scale versions of this problem using limited quantum resources. This result helps to illustrate the ways in which quantum computers can be used to solve hard optimization problems, even in the near term.

Tailings treatment track

The Quantum City Challenge’s tailings treatment track, designed by Canadian Natural with Quantum City, was positioned around the management of “fluid fine tailings," the watery mixture of clay, sand, and other materials left over after extracting bitumen. 

A global team from Accenture secured the win for this challenge track. Together, the team proposed a hybrid quantum neural network to help find the best possible combination of flocculants and coagulants for tailings treatment. Their model showed similar performance to state-of-the-art classical machine learning approaches and suggested potential quantum advantages.

From ideas to implementation: The winners' journey ahead

The winners' ideas from the challenge will be integrated into the expanding quantum ecosystem, with potential ongoing collaboration opportunities from industry partners. By providing mentorship, resources, and development opportunities, this collaboration aims to transform the teams' innovative concepts into practical applications. 

The winning teams will now have access to funding, mentoring, speaking engagements and technical resources to advance their solutions toward implementation.

Global impact of the challenge

The Quantum City Challenge attracted diverse participants from around the world, with over 60 individuals and teams creating profiles for the challenge. The high level of engagement demonstrates the growing interest in capabilities of quantum technology. Teams brought together expertise from various disciplines, fostering collaboration and innovation on a global scale. 

This collaborative spirit highlights the transformative potential impact of quantum technology in addressing complex challenges through technological advancement. ATCO and Canadian Natural leveraged their deep understanding of problems facing industry today to define their challenge tracks.

 As outlined by Andrea Klaiber-Langen, vice-president of transformation at ATCO, “We appreciate how our participation in the Quantum City Challenge has contributed to our technical fluency. ATCO now has a better understanding of the current and possible future state of quantum technologies and how we may use these in our future decisions and processes.”

Quantum technology in Alberta

Alberta has emerged as a leader for quantum technology development, with a vibrant ecosystem of research institutions, startups, incubators and industry partners. The winning solutions not only tackle global challenges but also address local issues specific to Alberta, including sustainable energy management and environmental remediation. Alberta is poised to drive innovation and economic growth in key sectors, solidifying its position as a leader in the quantum revolution. 

“Participating in initiatives like the Quantum City Challenge is vital for the University of Calgary and the Alberta quantum ecosystem,” says Rob Thompson, associate vice-president (research). “This positions us as a leader in technological advancement and ensures our contributions shape the future of scientific exploration and industry collaboration.”

The Quantum City Challenge stands as a testament to the transformative potential of quantum technology in tackling some of the most pressing challenges facing society today. As researchers and industry look to the future, collaboration and innovation will remain central to unlocking the full potential of quantum technology. With continued investment and partnership, society will have the potential to harness the power of quantum solutions to build a more sustainable and prosperous world.

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