Zapata Computing and The University of Hull Get Quantum-Ready For Ongoing Search for Life in Space

Zapata Computing and The University of Hull Get Quantum-Ready For Ongoing Search for Life in Space
One Year Into their Collaboration, The Teams Plan to Expand Search to Include Greater Volume and Complexity of Life-Indicating Molecules


BOSTON (September 20, 2022) – Zapata Computing, the leading enterprise quantum software company, today announced that it has made significant headway in its mission to get the University of Hull quantum-ready for future space exploration. One year into the collaboration both teams have seen enough progress to extend their plans for expanding the search for indicators of life in deep space.

Together, Zapata and the University of Hull developed new techniques to extrapolate meaningful data from noisy quantum devices and used it to calculate the ro-vibrational spectrum of hydrogen to obtain results that are comparable with the state-of-the-art classical simulations, as well as the experimental results. The results obtained with these new quantum techniques can already be used to detect molecular hydrogen in space.

A big part of the progress is due to the University of Hull’s successful migration of Big Compute™ capabilities from classical to quantum computers. Big Compute is Zapata’s term for the market category for heterogeneous and distributed compute resources needed to address enterprise and other technologically advanced organizations’ most computationally complex problems. It builds on previous technical revolutions like Big Data and AI and leverages a wide spectrum of classical (e.g., GPU, TPU, CPU), high-performance (HPC) and quantum compute resources (e.g., quantum-inspired computers, NISQ devices, fault-tolerant quantum computers).

In practical terms, this means that when more powerful and fault-tolerant quantum computers are available, the team of scientists at the University of Hull will be able to greatly increase the range of their exploration, the complexity and number of molecules that they can search for, and the speed with which they analyze their findings – as they search for life beyond planet Earth.

“The scale of what we are trying to accomplish today is daunting,” said Dr. David Benoit, senior lecturer in Molecular Physics and Astrochemistry at the University of Hull. “There are over 16,000 different life-indicating molecules that we’re searching for in space, but we could increase our search significantly with quantum computers as they become more powerful in the future. And we’re going to need that power. We’re not looking for a needle in a haystack here. That would be easy. This effort is more like looking for a speck of dust in a warehouse through a straw.”

Throughout the project, the teams have achieved several new discoveries and scientific breakthroughs. These discoveries led them to expect that the quantum algorithm will scale better than the classical one in the future, making it possible to study larger molecules that would not be possible with a classical computer. Zapata Computing and the University of Hull also documented this research and recently published a paper regarding the findings titled, “A pathway to accurate potential energy curves on NISQ devices.” The teams will also share the overview of the project and the results of the first year of work at Quantum.Tech London in their presentation on September 20 titled, “Using quantum computers to look for alien life in deep space.”

“The sheer scale of what the University of Hull is trying to accomplish technically is a clear indication that the need for Big Compute capabilities today are critical to prepare for the quantum future ahead,” said Christopher Savoie, CEO and co-founder of Zapata Computing. “There’s no question that the discovery of life in deep space is difficult, but it’s a challenge that is perfect for a quantum computer – and there are steps that the University of Hull is taking, similar to those many enterprises are taking, to make iterative progress and prep for these more powerful machines as they come online.”

For more information about the presentation at Quantum.Tech and Zapata Computing and its work with the University of Hull, please visit or stop by the Zapata Computing Booth (A3) at Quantum.Tech London.