Researchers at the University of Hull and Zapata have teamed up to use quantum computers to search for life in deep space. They will rely on a base of molecules that can indicate conditions suitable for life.

Zapata Computing, a quantum software company, has partnered with the University of Hull in the UK to leverage developments to detect signs of life in deep space.

The partnership will support research to repurpose Zapata’s Orquestra quantum workflow platform to help develop high-precision astrophysical models and applications.

“While quantum computers are an evolving technology and cannot yet beat classical hardware, Zapata wants to gain valuable data from affordable Noise Intermediate Scale Quantum (NISQ) devices,” said David Benoit, senior lecturer in molecular physics and astrophysics at Hull University.

The scientists explained that they want to build on the work of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who compiled a list of more than 14,000 molecules in 2016. They may indicate signs of life in the atmospheres of exoplanets.

Now researchers at the University of Hull want to create a database of detectable biological traits for these molecules using new computational models for molecular rotations and vibrations. But little is known now about how these molecules vibrate and rotate in response to infrared radiation generated by nearby stars.

To detect them, researchers need to build highly accurate models based on extremely accurate calculations – one of the greatest strengths of quantum computing. The first research results will appear in eight weeks.