quantum computing

A surprising quantum front-runner

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The enormous promise of quantum computing has lured big early investments from finance, aerospace, defense, and other tech-soaked industries. But an unexpected player is neck-and-neck with these front-runners: carmakers.

Big auto companies are tinkering with quantum computers in hopes they can solve problems too hefty for today's machines, from cooking up bigger batteries to designing lighter vehicles. And as they experiment, a host of other companies are lingering on the sidelines, watching for the right moment to jump in.

Meet Aurora, soon to be the first "exascale" supercomputer in the U.S.

The Titan Supercomputer is one of the fastest systems in the world.
The TITAN supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, currently one of the most powerful such systems worldwide. Photo: DOE

The Energy Department, Intel and subcontractor Cray Inc. announced Monday an agreement worth "more than $500 million" to provide Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois with the country's first "exascale" computer system.

Why it matters: When it begins operating in 2021, the new system, to be called Aurora, will be the most powerful supercomputer in the U.S. — more than five times faster than the current leader, which is the Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.