OTI Lumionics shows quantum simulations can help OLED display materials development

Consumer electronics devices from smartphones to TVs now employ organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays for their screens to improve brightness and overall image quality with low power requirements and greater flexibility for display designs. But OLED development is complex and expensive, and that’s why OLED materials company OTI Lumionics has turned to quantum computing for assistance..

OTI Lumionics CEO Michael Helander told Fierce Electronics recently that his Toronto-based firm collaborated with the University of British Columbia (UBC) on a demonstration that showed how quantum computing-based simulations have an advantage over classical computing simulations the company currently relies on to help develop OLED materials. (The results are available at arXiv.)

OLED material development is traditionally a slow process requiring the precise synthesis of any materials (OLED displays have many thin films laid over each other between electrical conductors to create their displays.) That means simulations need to be highly accurate.

“So, we work on better classical simulations–moving from CPUs to GPUs, to other customized hardware, and we have lots of those spinning away doing calculations, but it's still a bottleneck for us,” Helander said. “A lot of the properties we care about have to do with electronic material structure. Those calculations involve a lot of quantum mechanics that are hard to account for accurately, and so that's obviously a very natural place where quantum computing techniques have the promise and potential to do better.”

He added, “If the simulation is not accurate, then whatever your AI gets trained on is not going to be that accurate. Whatever it is may be an incremental improvement over what a bunch of clever chemists can come up with, but it's not a real stepwise change. It may provide an improvement of 15% or 20% or 25%, but it’s not like 10x or 100x improvement.”

As quantum computing remains a nascent science, OTI set out to develop its own iterative qubit coupled cluster (iQCC) quantum method to simulate OLED display emitter material, an effort which Helander said was prompted and supported by OTI’s semiconductor and manufacturing partners, who also were showing interesting in exploring how quantum methods could affect OLED processes. He said much quantum computing hardware today can take days to process a problem, but that using its own theories and own emulator allowed OTI to achieve results much faster.

“I have always believed that there will be stepping stones to quantum computing,” Helander said. “There will be a lot of hybrids in this evolution and that’s where this kind of emulator fits in.”

He added, “I think this is one of the first demonstrations of an industrially relevant problem, which is simulating phosphorescent OLED emitter molecules, the metal organic complexes that generate all of the light in OLED displays. What this work shows is that when you use the quantum algorithms, it gives you a more accurate, better prediction, taking the structure of the molecule and predicting its emission properties, than the classical tools. And so that's an actual industrial relevant problem like what real chemical companies face today. The other interesting implication, though, is because we're actually running those algorithms on an emulator. It also tells you the threshold for quantum advantage in quantum supremacy for different classes of problems is probably much different than people previously we talked about. Our emulator can go to over 100 logical algorithmic qubits, which are fully connected, error corrected perfect qubits.”

Meanwhile, many quantum computing companies are working hard to push systems past 1,000 qubits or more in the next few years. OTI’s work may show what’s already possible.

Zachary Hudson, associate professor at UBC, said of the demonstration,, “This work establishes a clear practical use for quantum computing, which isn’t to be taken lightly. When deployed on emerging quantum hardware, OTI’s iQCC quantum method has the needed accuracy to help design organometallic complexes more efficiently, which are crucial to developing better OLED displays as well as other materials, like catalysts. Our findings open the door to many industrial use cases for quantum computing, from developing better consumer electronics, to better batteries, catalysts and drugs. There’s a lot of excitement around quantum computing, and we predict the technology and research will continue to evolve rapidly.”

In other quantum news this week, DPCM Capital filed a Form S-4 with the SEC regarding its planned special purpose acquisition company merger with D-Wave Systems. The form contains details about D-Wave’s recent customer and revenue growth.

Also, Microsoft’s Azure Quantum claimed an important breakthrough for building topological qubits that may form the foundations of future quantum systems.

And, as military branches delve deeper into how they can leverage quantum technology, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, New York, is set get its hands on $293 million in grant money from the federal government.