Computer scientists at ETH Zurich have designed a new programming language that, they say, will make programming quantum computers as simple, safe, and reliable, as doing so in their classical counterparts. The announcement marks a significant step in the pursuit of these powerful systems to solve complex challenges across science and engineering fields.
In traditional object-oriented programming, abstraction is one of three core principles, used to reduce complexity so that entities are named in an efficient manner. With existing quantum languages, the programmer is forced to work at low levels of abstraction, meaning that the resulting code is cluttered and unintuitive.
Author and computer science professor at ETH Zurich, Martin Vechev explained how their language improves upon past languages “our quantum programming language Silq allows programmers to utilize the potential of quantum computers better than with existing languages because the code is more compact, faster, more intuitive and easier to understand for programmers.”
Unlike previous languages developed, Silq does not require programmers to understand the technicalities of the computer architecture in minute detail. Known as a high-level language, it is capable of describing complex tasks and algorithms with less code.
However, the most significant innovation that Silq brings to the table is its ability to reduce the error rate, a key pitfall of quantum computing development to date. As computers complete tasks they produce temporary values, which are automatically erased in classical computing. Whereas, in quantum systems “uncomputing” these values is much trickier because of quantum entanglement; where prior values interact with current ones.
“Silq is the first programming language that automatically identifies and erases values that are no longer needed,” explains Benjamin Bichsel, a doctoral student in Vechev’s group. The study authors achieved this through an automatic uncomputation method, analogous to classical methods, where the commands were free of any special quantum operations.
Whilst quantum supremacy remains a distant prospect, Bichsel et al. have achieved a major breakthrough in how programmers can try to optimise these systems. They hope that their work will give impetus to further development of languages and quantum algorithms.