Q. 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.
- It is based on the principles of quantum theory, which explains the nature of energy and matter on the atomic and subatomic level.
- It concerns the control and manipulation of quantum systems, with the goal of achieving information processing beyond the limits of the classical world.
- Its principles will be used for engineering solutions to extremely complex problems in computing, communications, sensing, chemistry, cryptography, imaging and mechanics.
- This key ability makes quantum computers extremely powerful compared to conventional computers when solving certain kinds of problems like finding prime factors of large numbers and searching large databases.
Q. What is Quantum Computing?
- Conventional computers process information in ‘bits’ or 1s and 0s, following classical physics under which our computers can process a ‘1’ or a ‘0’ at a time.
- Instead of bits, quantum computers use qubits. Rather than just being on or off, qubits can also be in what’s called ‘superposition’ – where they’re both on and off at the same time, or somewhere on a spectrum between the two.
- They exploit the properties of quantum mechanics, the science that governs how matter behaves on the atomic scale.
- In this scheme of things, processors can be a 1 and a 0 simultaneously, a state called quantum superposition.
- Because of quantum superposition, a quantum computer — if it works to plan — can mimic several classical computers working in parallel.
Q. Is India working on quantum computing?
- Globally, research in this area is about two decades old, but in India, serious experimental work has been under way for only about five years.
- There are no quantum computers in India yet.
- In 2018, the Department of Science & Technology unveiled a programme called Quantum-Enabled Science & Technology (QuEST) and committed to investing ₹80 crore over the next three years to accelerate research.
- The ostensible plan is to have a quantum computer built in India within the next decade. Phase-1 of the problem involves hiring research experts and establishing teams with the know-how to physically build such systems.
Q. What are its applications?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Q. What are Associated Challenges with it?
- 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.
- The government in its budget 2020 has announced a National Mission on Quantum Technologies & Applications (NM-QTA) with a total budget outlay of Rs 8000 Crore for a period of five years to be implemented by the Department of Science & Technology (DST).
- Quantum technology is opening up new frontiers in computing, communications, cyber security with wide-spread applications. It is expected that lots of commercial applications would emerge from theoretical constructs which are developing in this area.