New algorithm could be a quantum leap in search of gravitational waves

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A new method of identifying gravitational wave signals using quantum computers could provide a valuable new tool for future astrophysicists.

A team from the University of Glasgow’s School of Physics & Astronomy has developed a quantum algorithm to dramatically reduce the time it takes to compare gravitational wave signals against a huge database of templates.

Known as matched filtering, this process is part of the methodology underlying some of the discoveries of gravitational waves by detectors such as the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory (LIGO) in America and Virgo in Italy.

Those detectors, the most sensitive sensors ever made, pick up the faint ripples in spacetime caused by massive astronomical events such as the collision and merger of black holes.

Matched filtering allows computers to choose gravitational wave signals from the noise of the data collected by the detector. It works by sifting through the data, looking for a signal that matches one of possibly hundreds of trillions of templates — bits of pre-made data that likely correlate with a real gravitational wave signal.

While the process has enabled numerous gravitational wave detections since LIGO picked up its first signal in September 2015, it is time-consuming and labor-intensive.

In a new article published in the magazine Physical Assessment Examthe team describes how the process can be greatly accelerated by a quantum computing technique called Grover’s algorithm.

Developed by computer scientist Lov Grover in 1996, Grover’s algorithm takes advantage of the unusual capabilities and applications of quantum theory to make database searches much faster.

While quantum computers that can process data using Grover’s algorithm are still a technology in development, conventional computers are able to model their behavior, allowing researchers to develop techniques that can be applied when the technology matures and quantum computers are readily available. .

The Glasgow team are the first to adapt Grover’s algorithm to search for gravitational waves. In the paper, they show how they applied it to gravitational wave searches using software they developed using the Python programming language and Qiskit, a tool for simulating quantum computing processes.

The system developed by the team is able to speed up the number of operations relative to the square root of the number of templates. Current quantum processors are much slower at performing basic operations than classical computers, but as technology develops, their performance is expected to improve. This reduction in the number of calculations would translate into an acceleration over time. At best, this means that if a query with classical computers took, say, a year, the same query with their quantum algorithm could only take a week.

dr. Scarlett Gao, of the university’s School of Physics & Astronomy, is one of the lead authors of the paper. dr. Gao said: “Matched filtering is a problem that Grover’s algorithm seems to help solve well, and we’ve been able to develop a system that shows quantum computing can have valuable applications in gravitational wave astronomy.

“My co-author and I were PhD students when we started this work, and we were fortunate to have access to the support of some of the leading UK researchers in the field of quantum computing and gravitational waves during the development process of this software. .

“While we’ve focused on one type of query in this paper, it’s possible it could also be adapted for other processes that, like this one, don’t require the database to be loaded into quantum random access memory.”

Fergus Hayes, a Ph.D. student at the School of Physics & Astronomy, is co-lead author of the paper. He added: “Researchers here in Glasgow have been working on the physics of gravitational waves for over 50 years, and work in our Institute for Gravitational Research helped support the development and data analysis sides of LIGO.

“The interdisciplinary work that Dr. Gao and I have led has demonstrated the potential of quantum computing in matched filtering. As quantum computers develop in the coming years, it is possible that such processes could be used in future gravitational wave detectors. It is an exciting prospect, and we look forward to developing this first proof of concept in the future.”

The article was co-written by Dr. Sarah Croke, Dr. Christopher Messenger and Dr. John Veitch, all of the University of Glasgow School of Physics & Astronomy.

The team’s paper, titled “A quantum algorithm for gravitational wave matched filtering,” is published in: Physical Assessment Exam

Gravitational wave mirror experiments can evolve into quantumities

More information:
A quantum algorithm for gravitational wave filtering, arXiv:2109.01535 [quant-ph]

Provided by the University of Glasgow

Quote: New algorithm could be quantum leap in search of gravitational waves (2022, April 1), retrieved April 1, 2022 from

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