VaQOS: Variational quantum optical simulators

Alberto Muñoz de las Heras graduated in Physics from the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) in 2017. After an experimental stay at the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) in Barcelona, he pursued a Master’s degree in Condensed Matter Physics at UAM, publishing a paper on strongly interacting Bose gases under the direction of Francesca Marchetti and winning the Master’s Extraordinary Prize.

Later, he continued his training at the University of Trento (Italy), where he completed his doctoral thesis on topological and non-Hermitian photonic systems, defended in 2022. His research focused on the fractional quantum Hall effect, nonlinear photonics, and topological lasers.

In 2022, he joined the Quantum Information and Foundations Group (QUINFOG) at the Instituto de Física Fundamental (IFF, CSIC), as a postdoctoral researcher. Since April 2023, he is a ComFuturo fellow, where he develops his project VaQOS.


Se espera que la computación cuántica pueda resolver problemas que son intratables con los superordenadores actuales más potentes y traiga avances disruptivos en áreas tan importantes como la inteligencia artificial, ciberseguridad, farmacología o finanzas. No obstante, todavía no se dispone de ordenadores cuánticos capaces de resolver estos problemas. El principal obstáculo es la decoherencia, es decir, la pérdida de información debido a un control imperfecto o a la interacción entre el procesador cuántico y su entorno. Por ello, los ordenadores cuánticos existentes son de pequeño tamaño y carecen de protocolos de corrección de errores. El proyecto VaQOS intentará desbloquear esta situación a través del estudio de simuladores ópticos cuánticos variacionales más eficientes. Se aprovecharán las ventajas de estos sistemas para proponer nuevos diseños de tecnologías cuánticas que ofrezcan una mayor resiliencia al ruido y la decoherencia para que en el largo plazo los ordenadores cuánticos puedan escalar su tamaño e implementar algoritmos con corrección de errores.
Quantum computing is expected to solve problems that are intractable with today’s most powerful supercomputers, and bring disruptive breakthroughs in such important areas as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, pharmacology or finance. However, quantum computers capable of solving these problems are not yet available. The main obstacle is decoherence, i.e. the loss of information due to imperfect control or interaction between the quantum processor and its environment. As a result, existing quantum computers are small in size and lack error correction protocols. The VaQOS project will attempt to unblock this situation by studying more efficient variational quantum optical quantum simulators. The advantages of these systems will be exploited to propose new designs for quantum technologies that offer greater resilience to noise and decoherence so that in the long term quantum computers can scale in size and implement error-correcting algorithms.

Extended project summary:

Quantum theory, developed to understand the behavior of the universe on a small scale, has been one of the greatest revolutions of physics. Despite introducing concepts that clash with our everyday experience, such as the possibility of an object being in multiple states at once, or the entanglement between spatially separated objects, quantum physics is one of the most successful theories developed by the humankind.

One of the most promising applications of quantum physics is quantum computing. Physicists believe that a computer that makes use of the laws of the quantum theory could solve problems that are intractable even with the most powerful current supercomputers. This new form of computing could bring disruptive advances in areas as important as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, pharmacology, or finance.

However, we still lack quantum computers capable of solving these problems. The main obstacle we face is decoherence, that is, the loss of information due to the interaction between the quantum processor and its environment or imperfect control. Therefore, existing quantum computers are small in size and lack error-correction protocols.

The VaQOS project will try to unlock this situation through the study of variational quantum optical simulators, that is, systems in which quantum emitters (such as atoms or ions) interact with light at the level of individual photons. The plan is to harness the advantages of these systems (such as new types of interactions between emitters or greater resilience to noise and decoherence) to, in the short term, develop hybrid algorithms that use a classical and a quantum part and that can be used in current quantum computers, and in the long term, scale their size to implement purely quantum algorithms with error correction.

Scientific production derived from the ComFuturo VaQOS Project

Scientific articles  

C. Tabares; A. Muñoz de las Heras; JL. Tagliacozzo; D. Porras;  A. González-Tudela (2023). Variational Quantum Simulators Based on Waveguide QED. PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.131.073602