Quantum computing technology and associated applications – Explained, pointwise

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Quantum computing technology has emerged as a revolutionary field, holding the potential to transform numerous industries and applications. With the Indian Union Cabinet’s approval of the ₹6,003 crore National Quantum Mission, India is set to join the global race in developing cutting-edge quantum computing, communication, and sensing technologies.

As the world’s leading nations continue to invest heavily in quantum research and development, this rapidly evolving domain promises to unlock extraordinary capabilities, reshaping the future of computing and its associated applications.  

What is Quantum computing and how it is different from classical computing?

Quantum computing is a revolutionary approach to computation that leverages the principles of quantum mechanics to process information. It differs significantly from classical computing, which is based on classical physics and uses bits to represent data as either 0 or 1.  

The main differences between quantum computing and classical computing are as follows:  

Fundamental units: While classical computing uses bits as its fundamental units of data, quantum computing uses quantum bits, or qubits. Qubits can represent data as 0, 1, or both 0 and 1 simultaneously, thanks to a quantum phenomenon called superposition.  

Superposition: Classical bits can only exist in a single state at any given time, either 0 or 1. Qubits, however, can exist in a superposition of states, meaning they can be in multiple states at once. This property allows quantum computers to perform complex calculations and solve problems that are infeasible for classical computers.  

Entanglement: Another key difference between quantum and classical computing is the concept of entanglement. In quantum computing, qubits can become entangled, meaning the state of one qubit is directly related to the state of another, even when they are far apart. Entanglement allows for faster and more efficient information processing, as changes in one qubit can instantaneously affect the entangled qubits.  

Parallelism: Due to superposition and entanglement, quantum computers can perform multiple calculations simultaneously. This inherent parallelism allows them to solve certain problems much faster than classical computers, which process data sequentially.  

Problem-solving capabilities: Quantum computing has the potential to solve complex problems in areas such as cryptography, optimization, materials science, and drug discovery that are currently intractable for classical computers.  

However, quantum computers are not intended to replace classical computers but rather complement them by tackling specific types of problems.  

Read more: Quantum computing 

What is the need for developing quantum computing?

Limitations of Classical Computing: Classical computers struggle to handle complex problems and large data sizes. Quantum computing promises to address these challenges, allowing us to solve problems that are beyond the capabilities of classical computers.  

Irregular Growth and Progress: The need for quantum computing development is to ensure continued growth and progress in multiple domains. As the world becomes increasingly reliant on technology and computation, quantum computing can help meet the demands and keep up with the rapid pace of change.  

Complex global issues: Quantum computing is needed to address complex global issues like climate change, disease outbreaks, and resource management, as it can process vast amounts of data and provide timely solutions.  

Insecure communications: Current encryption methods may become vulnerable with the advent of quantum computing. Developing quantum technologies is necessary to ensure secure communication and protect sensitive information. Advancing scientific research: Quantum computing is needed to simulate quantum systems accurately, which can help unlock new discoveries in areas like physics, chemistry, and biology.  

Uncompetitiveness: As other nations invest heavily in quantum technology, it is essential for countries to develop their own capabilities to remain competitive and maintain their strategic edge.  

Unknown future challenges: Investing in quantum computing today is necessary to build a strong foundation for tackling unknown challenges and opportunities that may emerge in the future.  

How India is developing quantum computing technologies?

India’s Approach to Developing Quantum Computing Technologies:  

National Quantum Mission: The Indian Union Cabinet approved the ₹6,003 crore National Quantum Mission, an eight-year project aimed at developing quantum computing, quantum communication, and quantum sensing technologies, bringing India on par with global leaders like the US and China.  

Research and Development: India is investing in quantum computing research through various institutions, including the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), and the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), where projects such as quantum cryptography and quantum simulations are being explored.  

Government support and funding: The Indian government has allocated significant funds ( in 2020 budget) to support quantum technology research and development, such as the ₹8,000 crore National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications (NMQTA), which will fund projects across academia, research institutions, and industry.  

Research Institutions and Industry Collaboration: Indian research institutions like the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), and the Raman Research Institute collaborate with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the industry to advance quantum computing technologies.  

Quantum startup ecosystem: India is witnessing the growth of quantum computing startups, such as QNu Labs and QuScTec, working on developing quantum algorithms, hardware, and software solutions to tackle real-world problems.  

Skill development and education: Indian universities and research institutions, like IIT Madras, are focusing on developing quantum expertise by offering specialized courses and degrees in quantum computing and related fields, preparing the next generation of quantum scientists and engineers.  

Military applications: The Indian Army has established a quantum research facility in Madhya Pradesh, focusing on the development of quantum technologies for military applications, such as secure communication and advanced sensing capabilities.  

How other countries are developing quantum computing technologies?

United States: The US has a strong focus on quantum computing research, with companies like IBM, Google, and Rigetti Computing leading the way. The US government has also established the National Quantum Initiative to support and coordinate quantum research and development.  

China: China is investing heavily in quantum computing research, with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and leading universities collaborating on projects. In 2020, China achieved a major milestone by demonstrating quantum supremacy with its Jiuzhang quantum computer.The country has also made significant progress in quantum communication with the launch of the world’s first quantum satellite, Micius.  

European Union: The European Union has launched the Quantum Technologies Flagship, a €1 billion initiative to support quantum research and development across Europe. Key players in the region include companies like IQM Quantum Computers and research institutions like the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics.  

Canada: Canada is also a significant player in the field of quantum computing, with the University of Waterloo’s Institute for Quantum Computing and companies like D-Wave Systems and Xanadu contributing to advancements in the technology.  

What are the potential applications of quantum computing?

Secure Communication: Quantum computers can enable ultrasecure communication using quantum encryption, making it nearly impossible for hackers to intercept sensitive information.  

New Medicines: Quantum computing can help simulate complex molecular interactions, allowing researchers to discover new drugs and optimize existing ones.  

Improved Climate Predictions: Quantum computers can process vast amounts of data, leading to more accurate climate models and better-informed policies for environmental preservation.  

Enhanced AI Models: Quantum computing can dramatically improve machine learning algorithms, enabling more efficient and accurate AI models for various applications.  

Logistics and Supply Chains: Quantum computing can find optimal solutions for complex optimization problems, such as routing and scheduling, to improve efficiency in logistics and supply chains.  

Better Investment Strategies: Quantum computing can analyze complex financial data, allowing for improved risk assessment and investment strategies in the financial sector.  

What are the challenges in developing quantum computing technology?

Developing practical and reliable QCs faces significant challenges:  

Engineering larger quantum processors: A practical QC needs at least 1,000 qubits. Currently, the largest quantum processor has 433 qubits. Engineering barriers need to be overcome to create larger processors.  

Maintaining specific conditions: Qubits require extremely low temperatures, radiation shielding, and protection against physical shock to maintain their superposition states.  

Error-correction: Quantum error-correction is tricky due to the no cloning theorem, which states that a qubit’s state cannot be perfectly cloned. Error-correction requires entangling each qubit with thousands of physical qubits.  

Error amplification: Researchers must develop QCs that don’t amplify errors when more qubits are added. Keeping error rates below a certain threshold is crucial, as more qubits could otherwise increase informational noise.  

What are the challenges in developing quantum computing technology in India?

Limited Facilities: India faces challenges in establishing advanced research facilities and providing adequate resources for quantum computing development.  

Insufficient Funds: Securing funding for research and development in quantum computing remains a challenge, with limited private and public investment compared to global competitors.  

Talent Shortage: India faces a shortage of skilled professionals and researchers in the field of quantum computing, making it difficult to build a strong talent pool.  

Weak Partnerships: Lack of strong collaborations between academic institutions, research organizations, and industries can slow down the progress of quantum computing development in India.  

IP Protection: India needs to improve its intellectual property (IP) protection and technology transfer mechanisms to encourage innovation and safeguard researchers’ work in quantum computing.  

What should be done?

Invest in Facilities: The government and private sector should invest in building state-of-the-art research facilities and providing resources for quantum computing development.  

Increase Support: Both public and private entities should increase funding and investment in quantum computing research, development, and innovation.  

Education and Training: India should focus on enhancing education and training programs in quantum computing, including specialized courses and workshops to build a strong talent pool.  

Promote Partnerships: Encourage collaborations between academic institutions, research organizations, and industries to create a robust ecosystem for quantum computing development.  

Government Policies: The government should develop policies that support and encourage the growth of the quantum computing sector, including incentives for research and development, and the establishment of quantum computing hubs.  

Read more: Quantum Computing: Uses, Challenges and India’s Initiatives – Explained, pointwise  

Source: PIB, The Hindu (Article 1, Article 2 and Article 3), Indian Express, ORF and Deccan Herald

Syllabus: GS – 3: Science and Technology – Indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

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