Moving backwards and forwards at the same time, existing in two places simultaneously, or a superposition that allows a computer’s binary code to be a one or a zero at the same time may sound like science fiction – not with quantum computing. To put into perspective how far computing power has come since its inception, realize this – In 1976, Apple Computers released the Apple 1 which had a 1 MHz CPU, or 1 million hertz, of processing power. Hertz is a unit of frequency equivalent to one event per second – one hertz means one event per second. Fast forward 47 years and you can now purchase an Apple Macbook Pro with 12 CPU cores and up to 3.7 GHz – 3.7 billion hertz. Simply put, the more powerful a computer processor, the faster it can think and execute tasks.

BMW Group, Airbus, and Quantinuum Partner to Use Quantum Computing for Fuel Cells

BMW Group, Airbus, and Quantinuum have developed a hybrid quantum-classical workflow to speed up future research using Quantum computers to simulate quantum systems focusing on the chemical reactions of catalysts in fuel cells. Quantum computing solves problems which are too complex for traditional computers. The incorporation of physics, mathematics, and computer science in conjunction with quantum mechanics are at the heart of quantum computing and allow complex problems to be solved significantly faster than on traditional computers. 

Oxygen Reduction Reaction: A Key Challenge for Fuel Cell Efficiency

The collaboration between BMW Group, Airbus, and Quantinuum aims to use quantum computing to enhance their understanding of a critical chemical reaction called the oxygen reduction reaction – a process that converts hydrogen and oxygen into water and electricity in a fuel cell and is a limiting factor of the efficiency process. According to an article published at Cornell University, titled the Applicability of Quantum Computing to Oxygen Reduction Reaction Simulations, the trio accurately report modeling this reaction on the surface of platinum-based catalysts. The oxygen reduction reaction is a quite lethargic process and requires a substantial quantity of platinum catalysts, so there is considerable interest and value in better understanding the rudimentary mechanisms involved in the reaction.

Hydrogen powered fuel cells show great promise in sustainability and performance in the transportation sector and I believe we will see many hydrogen powered machines being commercially implemented in the near future. Airbus has stated they clearly envision the benefits of the ORR quantum computing study and embrace the advancements being made in their quest for hydrogen powered alternatives such as; the Airbus ZEROe aircraft, which may operate on fuel cell engines. 

BMW Group’s iX5 Hydrogen Vehicle: A Leap Forward in Sustainable Mobility

BMW Group is no stranger to hydrogen powered fuel cells, take for example the iX5 hydrogen vehicle – consistent range unaffected by weather conditions, 3-4 minute refueling, emission-free operation, 401hp, and approximately 300 miles of electric range with a full tank of hydrogen. Dr Peter Lehnert, Vice-President of BMW Group Research Technologies stated: “ …Being able to simulate material properties to relevant chemical accuracy with the benefits from the accelerating Quantum Computing hardware is giving us just the right tools for more speed in innovation for this decisive domain.”

The BMW Group has emphasized their intentions to be the most sustainable premium manufacturer for individual mobility and are inherently focused on reducing CO2 emissions, increasing resource efficiency, and substantially improving social and environmental standards. Will quantum computing be an integral component to achieving these goals? I am highly confident that the answer to that question is self explanatory – undoubtedly.