ECE team wins Best Electromagnetics Paper Award at EuCAP 2022


Joseph Park, Illinois ECE

An Illinois ECE team recently won the Best Electromagnetics Paper Award at EuCAP 2022. EuCAP 2022 is Europe's flagship conference on antennas and propagation. 

Zhen Peng
Zhen Peng

The paper by ECE graduate students Qi Jian Lim, Charles Ross, Professor Gabriele Gradoni (University of Nottingham), and Associate Professor Zhen Peng entitled "Quantum-Assisted Combinatorial Optimization of Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces," received the Best Electromagnetics Paper Award at the conference. This prestigious award is given only to one paper in the Electromagnetics area at the conference. 

The reconfigurable intelligent surface (RIS) is emerging as a key technology for the next generation of mobile communication networks. The goal is to turn the wireless environment into a smart or reconfigurable space that plays an active role in wireless communication performance. Going beyond 5G and entering 6G, it is anticipated that large-scale, distributed RIS devices may be deployed at the surface of interacting objects, e.,g. wall, windows, and furniture in the propagation channel.

A joint optimization of wireless endpoints and distributed RISs would lead to a dynamically programmable and customized wireless environment, with a goal of providing enhanced coverage with high energy efficiency and supporting ultra-fast and seamless connectivity. To harness the full potential of RIS-enabled smart radio environment, the states of RIS devices need to be rapidly optimized with prescribed objective functions. This constitutes a substantial computational task both in the physical and network layer of wireless communication, due to the enormous number of available degrees of freedom.

In this research, the ECE team elaborates on the role of quantum computing (QC) to provide a scalable approach that overcomes the computational optimization complexity. In recent years, the remarkable progress made in QC hardware has defined a new, Noisy Intermediate-Scale Quantum (NISQ), QC era. By exploiting fundamental properties of quantum mechanics, these QC systems can deliver orders of magnitude in the speedup against classical computing hardware for solving hard problems.

The team focused on quantum combinatorial optimization algorithms, which run on NISQ devices to search for an optimal solution over all the combinatorial states of RIS elements. The EM wave energy is expressed as an Ising Hamiltonian: a common mathematical abstraction employed in statistical mechanics to describe the spin state of arrays of quantum particles. The optimization problem of the Ising Hamiltonian is then solved on the quantum adiabatic optimizer machine. The results show a viable way forward for analyzing and controlling the interaction of large reconfigurable surfaces and complex radio environments.