The world that awaits us – on technological developments

Source: This post is created based on the article “The world that awaits us”, published in Business Standard on 3rd June 2023.

Syllabus Topic: GS Paper 3 – Awareness about the technologies

Context: Nuclear fusion, hydrogen fuel cells, quantum computing, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are considered transformative technologies. However, only AI has become usable as of now.

While AI is making extraordinary progress, the other three technologies may be years away from commercial viability.

Big technical problems need to be solved before nuclear fusion, fuels cells, and quantum computing can be used at a large scale.

What are the Challenges of Hydrogen Fuel Cells?

Hydrogen is difficult to store in large quantities due to its lightness.

Liquefaction of hydrogen requires extremely low temperatures, making it expensive and energy intensive.

Designing storage tanks that can safely contain hydrogen is challenging and costly.

What are the Challenges of Nuclear Fusion?

Nuclear fusion requires heating the fuel, usually plasma, to extremely high temperatures (e.g., 20 million degrees Celsius). Generating and controlling a fusion reaction requires more energy than the fusion reaction generates.

What are the Challenges of Quantum Computing?

Quantum computers require ultra-cool and stable conditions, often operating near absolute zero.

Connecting quantum machines to “normal machines” for meaningful work is difficult because conventional equipment doesn’t function at such low temperatures.

Software for quantum computing differs significantly from conventional programming.

What are the future prospects of these technologies?

The next five years may witness the development of quantum machines operating in less exotic conditions.

Once achieved, the financial aspects of implementing quantum computing and AI may help make fusion reactors financially viable or find affordable storage solutions for hydrogen.

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