Designing Energy-Efficient Quantum Computers Through Prediction and Reduction of Cooling Requirements for Cryogenic Electronics

Research output: NRELPresentation


Quantum computing has been identified as a “wild card” by the International Energy Agency in predicting future global data center energy usage. This is primarily because both uncertainty in the extent to which quantum computing will be adopted, and uncertainty in the power consumption of individual quantum data centers. Unlike the classical counterparts, quantum computers need to be maintained at near absolute zero, requiring energy-intensive cryogenic cooling systems. Therefore, as quantum computers scale up from existing 50 qubit technology demonstrations to the 10,000 to 100,000 qubit systems that will be able to solve complex problems, the energy consumption of both the electronics and the required cooling systems will also increase. To predict this scaling, this work analyzes the energy requirements for both computation and cooling of quantum hardware. We show that the energy requirements for cooling of quantum computers is determined by several computing system parameters, including the number and type of physical qubits, the operating temperature, the packaging efficiency of the system, and the split between circuits operating at cryogenic temperatures and those operating at room temperature. The energy requirements can then be found based on thermal system parameters such as cooling efficiency and cryostat heat transfer. Analysis of these parameters shows that the energy required for cooling is significantly larger than that required for computation, a reversal from energy usage patterns seen in conventional computing. The results and discussions provide a road-map for creating energy efficient quantum computers through the selection of computer architectures and cryogenic system configurations that minimize cooling requirements.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages22
StatePublished - 2020

Publication series

NamePresented at IEEE Quantum Week, 12-16 November 2020

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-2C00-77200


  • energy efficiency
  • quantum computing


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