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Microsoft and Johnson Matthey join forces to speed up hydrogen fuel cell innovation with Azure Quantum

Johnson Matthey and Microsoft Azure Quantum chemists have teamed up to drive new discoveries in sustainable energy. So far, Johnson Matthey has seen a two-fold acceleration in quantum chemistry calculations and we’re just getting started. Both companies recognize that the discoveries needed to create a zero-carbon future will require significant breakthroughs in chemical and materials science, and are enthusiastic about the difference we can make in the world together.

Many of the hardest problems facing society, like reversing climate change and addressing food insecurity, are chemistry and materials science problems. Progress in this space will impact 96 percent of products and 100 percent of humanity. With continuous increases in classical computing capabilities, more quantum chemistry problems can be solved today using state-of-the-art cloud high-performance computing (HPC) services. However, the hardest chemistry and materials science problems will require a scaled quantum machine like the one Microsoft is engineering right now. Ultimately, the impactful applications of the future will be a hybrid of HPC, AI, and quantum. Our goal is to empower scientists to accelerate the next 250 years of chemistry discovery into 25 years. To start, we are learning and accelerating innovation alongside the pioneers in this space who are eager to make an impact today and prepare for quantum computing tomorrow—pioneers like Johnson Matthey.

Johnson Matthey is a global leader in sustainable technologies, with over 200 years of commitment to innovation and technological breakthroughs in transport, energy, and chemical processing. For example, one in three cars on the road use a Johnson Matthey catalyst in the exhaust system, helping to reduce harmful emissions. Johnson Matthey is collaborating with Azure Quantum’s chemists to develop new predictive modeling tools with the supercomputing capabilities of Azure HPC and refined workflows to accelerate chemical simulations, explore the potential of AI, and get quantum ready. The team has been able to accelerate certain quantum chemistry calculations and reduce the turnaround time for their scaled workloads from six months to a week. These capabilities are transforming the pace of Johnson Matthey’s computational chemistry and materials science research and development (R&D).

The search for better hydrogen fuel cell catalysts

One key area of Johnson Matthey’s sustainable technologies R&D is finding better catalysts for hydrogen fuel cells that power trucks and buses. Electrocatalysts are materials that facilitate electrochemical reactions in fuel cells, helping to use hydrogen fuel to produce electricity. The most effective catalyst for hydrogen fuel cells today is platinum, which is rare and very expensive. The company has expanded its groundbreaking digital research in electrocatalysts to develop alternative alloy catalysts that use less platinum, to drive down the cost of fuel cell technology. This research requires significant computational resources to simulate complex atomic interactions within materials.

Accelerating quantum chemistry discoveries

Johnson Matthey turned to Azure Quantum’s chemists to help them explore new predictive modeling tools, native to Azure, that could accelerate nanoparticle simulations for discovering new catalysts. Using these tools with the supercomputing capabilities of Azure HPC, the team has substantially increased the throughput of the calculations needed to understand and design new electrocatalyst materials.

“With Azure HPC, we’ve seen about a 50 percent speedup on some of our chemistry calculations that we run—which is critical for R&D because every second counts, not just for getting the results quickly, but also in terms of cost and throughput,”—Glenn Jones, Research Manager, Johnson Matthey Technology Center.

Azure provides supercomputing scale and acceleration

These breakthrough acceleration capabilities are made possible through state-of-the-art Azure HPC hardware that is uniquely suited to chemistry and materials science workloads. The scale of the Azure HPC cloud allows massively parallel calculations for chemical and materials science discovery while InfiniBand-connected CPU/GPU architectures accelerate tightly coupled molecular simulation workloads. Workflow tools like AiiDA can help users harness the power of the cloud while managing its complexity and the scale of data from massively parallel calculations. Additionally, Azure deployment tools can be used to quickly stand up and manage computational chemistry and materials science environments in the cloud.

Preparing for future scaled quantum systems

Azure is not only providing supercomputing scale and simulation acceleration; it is also enabling Johnson Matthey to prepare for a quantum future, with hybrid workflows and codes to tackle even more ambitious problems and innovate faster when scaled quantum systems become available.

“Since we’re using Azure, we are quantum-ready and on the path to tap into the power of quantum computers once available in the cloud through Azure Quantum. This will revolutionize how we conduct chemistry simulations,”—Glenn Jones, Research Manager, Johnson Matthey Technology Center.

Learn more about chemical and materials science innovation

This collaboration with Johnson Matthey is part of Microsoft’s dedicated efforts to accelerate scientific discovery by empowering chemists and other scientists with state-of-the-art cloud services tailored specifically to solve quantum problems. We welcome Johnson Matthey to our community of quantum thought leaders and invite other enterprises who want to explore the potential for Azure cloud services and quantum computing to innovate and dramatically improve their chemistry and materials development to join our next Microsoft Quantum Innovator series event.

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Microsoft Quantum Innovator Series

The path to quantum at scale.

If you are interested in meeting with our chemists and quantum architects to learn how our platform can accelerate your R&D, please reach out to the Azure Quantum team at