General Studies IIIScience and Tech

Quantum computing

Why in news?

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in India will establish a Quantum Computing Applications Lab in the country, in collaboration with AWS, to accelerate quantum computing-led research and development and enable new scientific discoveries. The MeitY Quantum Computing Applications Lab will provide quantum computing as a service togovernment ministries and departments, researchers, scientists, academia, and developers, to enable advances in areas such as manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture, and aerospace engineering. AWS will provide hosting with technical and programmatic support for the Lab. This MeitYinitiative will provide scientific, academic, and developer communities access to a quantum computing development environment aligned with the government’s science and technology priorities.

What is Quantum Technology?

It is a class of technology that works by using the principles of quantum mechanics (the physics of sub-atomic particles), including quantum entanglement and quantum superposition.

  • Quantum entanglement is when two atoms are connected, or entangled, despite being separated.
  • Quantum superposition is the theory that sub-atomic particles exist in multiple states simultaneously.
A timeline of Quantum Mechanics
  • It was developed in the early 20th century to describe nature in the small — at the scale of atoms and elementary particles.
  • It helped in understanding of the physical world, including the interaction of light and matter and on subjects such as gravity and black holes.
  • It led to ubiquitous inventions such as lasers and semiconductor transistors
  • second revolution is currently under way with the goal of controlling and harnessing the properties of quantum mechanics.

Quantum field has not yet matured for commercialization, due to the extreme scientific challenges involved some of which are:

  • Technical Difficulties: The challenge lies in harnessing the properties of quantum superposition and entanglement in a highly controlled manner by building a system composed of carefully designed building blocks called quantum bits or qubits.
  • Fragility of Qubits: A qubit or quantum bit is the basic unit of quantum information—the quantum version of the binary bit (0 and 1) in classical computing
  • These qubits tend to be very fragile and lose their “quantumness” if not controlled properly, and a careful choice of materials, design and engineering is required to get them to work.
  • Theoretical Challenges of creating the algorithms and applications for quantum computers
Applications of Quantum Technology

Besides computing, exploring the quantum world promises other dramatic applications. For example:

  • Secure Communication: China recently demonstrated secure quantum communication links between terrestrial stations and satellites.

    • This area is significant to satellites, military and cyber security among others as it promises unimaginably fast computing and safe, unhackable satellite communication to its users.
  • Research: It can help in solving some of the fundamental questions in physics related to gravity, black hole etc.

    • Similarly, the quantum initiative could give a big boost to the Genome India project, a collaborative effort of 20 institutions to enable new efficiencies in life sciences, agriculture and medicine.
  • Disaster Management: Tsunamis, drought, earthquakes and floods may become more predictable with quantum applications.

    • The collection of data regarding climate change can be streamlined in a better way through quantum technology. This in turn will have a profound impact on agriculture, food technology chains and the limiting of farmland wastage.
  • Pharmaceutical: India’s interest in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry is huge.

    • Quantum computing could reduce the time frame of the discovery of new molecules and related processes to a few days from the present 10-year slog that scientists put in.
    • For instance, tracking protein behaviour or even modelling new proteins with the help of quantum computers could be made easier and faster.
    • Tackling chronic diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart ailments is a big possibility of the technology.
  • Augmenting Industrial revolution 4.0: Quantum computing is an integral part of Industrial revolution 4.0.

    • Success in it will help in Strategic initiatives aimed at leveraging other Industrial revolution 4.0 technologies like the Internet-of-Things, machine learning, robotics, and artificial intelligence across sectors will further help in laying the foundation of the Knowledge economy.
Associated Challenges
  • The challenge lies in harnessing the properties of quantum superposition in a highly controlled manner. The qubits tend to be very fragile and lose their “quantumness” if not controlled properly. Also, a careful choice of materials, design and engineering is required to get them to work.
  • On the theoretical front lies the challenge of creating the algorithms and applications for quantum computers.
  • These projects will also place new demands on classical control hardware as well as software platforms.
  • Further, Information technology-based security infrastructure would never be the same once quantum systems become a reality, given the ultra fast speed of computing power.
  • Warfare and conflict strategists will have new challenges to face.

    • In such scenarios India’s current plans may have to be reworked to develop integrated war-theatre strategies factoring in quantum technologies.
India’s Effort:

About National Mission on Quantum Technologies & Applications (NM-QTA)

  • The mission will oversee the development of quantum technologies for communications, computing, materials development and cryptography.
  • The mission addresses the constraints (listed above) that led to slow progression of country in quantum field, through adoption of holistic approach.
  • Announced in Budget 2020
  • Period: Five years (2020-25)
  • Total Funds: Rs 8000 years
  • Implementing Body: Department of Science & Technology (DST)

Significance of the mission:

  • The mission may eventually lead to the creation of a super-secure communication network 
  • It will help prepare next generation skilled manpower, boost translational research and also encourage entrepreneurship and start-up ecosystem development. 
  • It will find utility in finding solution for complex problems in fields of computing, communications, sensing, chemistry, cryptography, imaging and mechanic
  • The mission will enable India to emerge as Global leader in the field through increased investment & focus in Quantum Technologies

Way Forward

  • Increase private funding, both via industry and philanthropy, as they can play an outsized role even with much smaller amounts and compliment the efforts of government
  • Institutional Autonomy as there is a need to create a vibrant intellectual environment to help attract top researchers.
  • Industry- Academia Collaboration: Connections with Indian industry from the start would help quantum technologies become commercialised successfully.

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