Quantum Computing and its Applications

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Context: Researchers have found a way to protect highly fragile quantum systems from noise, which could aid in the design and development of new quantum devices, such as ultra-powerful quantum computers. 

Prelims: General Science.
Mains: GS III- Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nanotechnology, biotechnology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.


What is Quantum Computing?

  • Quantum computing is an area of computing based on the principles of quantum theory, which explains the behaviour of energy and material on the atomic and subatomic levels.
  • It uses quantum bits or qubits.
  • It harnesses the unique ability of subatomic participles that allows them to exist in more than one state i.e. a 1 and a 0 at the same time.
  • Superposition and entanglement are two features of quantum physics on which these supercomputers are based.
  • This empowers quantum computers to handle operations at speeds exponentially higher than conventional computers and much lesser energy consumption.

What is ‘quantum supremacy’?

  • Quantum supremacy or quantum advantage refers to quantum computers being able to solve a problem that a classical computer cannot.
  • It’s when the superior potential of quantum computing is finally achieved in practice — effectively superseding existing forms of computing.
  • Recently, Google announced that they have achieved ‘quantum supremacy’, in which a computer harnessing the properties of sub-atomic particles did a far better job of solving a problem than the world’s most powerful supercomputer.
  • Google’s Sycamore is reported to have solved a problem in 200 seconds that would have taken today’s fastest supercomputer 10,000 years to solve.

Differences between Quantum computing and Conventional computing: 

Quantum computing Conventional computing
  • Based on the phenomenon of Quantum Mechanics or quantum physics.
  • Based on the phenomenon of classical physics.
  • Information storage and manipulation are based on Quantum Bit or “qubit” i.e. 0, 1, and superposition state of both 0 and 1 to represent information.
  • Information storage and manipulation are based on “bit”, which is based on voltage or charge; low is 0, and high is 1.
  • It is possible to be in more than one state at a time.
  • There is the possibility of being only in a single state at a given time, either on or off.
  • In quantum computers, data processing is done in the Quantum Processing Unit or QPU, which consists of several interconnected qubits.
  • In conventional computers, data processing is done in a Central Processing Unit or CPU, which consists of an Arithmetic and Logic Unit (ALU), processor registers, and a control unit.
  • Quantum computers will allow much larger calculations.
  • Classical computers are limited in terms of size and complexity.

Applications of 
Quantum computing:

Quantum computing could be a game-changing technology across various industries, governments, and society at large.

  • Aerospace industry:  
    • Quantum computing has great potential to solve computational challenges in aircraft modelling, simulation, and more.  
    • It could also help assess the optimal amount of fuel and speed to operate a commercial aircraft, thereby potentially helping the industry to improve its sustainability performance.  
  • Artificial intelligence and big data: 
    • Quantum computers could empower machine learning by enabling AI programs to search through the gigantic datasets concerning medical research, consumer behavior, financial markets, etc.
    • Quantum computing helps to integrate data and quickly analyze and understand the patterns.
  • Space: 
    • The scalability of quantum computing will help the detection of gravitational waves.
    • Can be used to scan the universe for habitable planets.
    • Can help in modelling and designing space crafts and space suits.
  • Medicine:
    • Discover tumours in time and develop better targeting drugs leading to greater advancements in pharmacology.
    • Could be used to provide faster, more accurate diagnostics.
    • Enable therapists to run more simulations in less time, helping to minimize radiation damage to healthy tissue.
    • Clinicians could easily review CT scans over time and quickly identify changes and anomalies.
    • Can accelerate precision medicine.
    • With quantum computing’s enhanced data processing abilities, medical practitioners can quickly identify targeted chemotherapy protocols and with more customization.
  • Agriculture:
    • Help in detecting weed through an invasive weed optimization algorithm.
    • Farmers can hence, effectively craft fertilizers.
    • Can help in determining the right amount of inputs.
    • It can be used to make precise long-term large-scale production plans and helps to increase yield and efficiency.
  • Cybersecurity:
    • Quantum computing with the help of machine learning can help in developing various techniques to combat cybersecurity threats.
    • Additionally, quantum computing can help in creating encryption methods, also known as, quantum cryptography.
  • Weather Forecasting and Climate Change:
    • Quantum computer’s ability to crunch vast amounts of data, in a short period, could indeed lead to enhancing weather system modeling allowing scientists to predict the changing weather patterns in no time and with excellent accuracy — something which can be essential for the current time when the world is going under a climate change.
    • With quantum computers, meteorologists will also be able to generate and analyze more detailed climate models, which will provide greater insight into climate change and ways to mitigate it.
  • Financial services:
    • Quantum computers can be used for complex financial modeling and risk management in the financial industry by finding new ways to model financial data and isolating key global risk factors.
    • It can also be used for algorithmic trading – the use of complex algorithms to automatically trigger share dealings based on a wide variety of market variables.
    • Can be used in stock markets for detecting problems.
  • Logistics optimization:
    • Improved data analysis and robust modelling will indeed enable a wide range of industries to optimize their logistics and scheduling workflows associated with their supply-chain management. 
  • Gaming:
    • Quantum computing can take game development experience to a whole new level. 
    • In the future, one can implement it into game development in interesting ways such as procedural generations, random generation of content, and many more. 

oncerns/challenges with quantum computing:

  • Not affordable for small businesses.
  • Difficult to build, verify, and design.
  • Quantum states are fragile and hence hard to control.
  • Potential to misuse for cyber attacks.

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

  • 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).
  • The mission will oversee the development of quantum technologies for communications, computing, materials development, and cryptography.

New Development

  • The researchers, from the University of Cambridge, have shown that microscopic particles can remain intrinsically linked, or entangled, over long distances even if there are random disruptions between them.
  • Using the mathematics of quantum theory, they discovered a simple setup where entangled particles can be prepared and stabilized even in the presence of noise by taking advantage of a previously unknown symmetry in quantum systems.
  • Their results open a new window into the mysterious quantum world that could revolutionize future technology by preserving quantum effects in noisy environments, which is the single biggest hurdle for developing such technology.
  • Harnessing this capability will be at the heart of ultrafast quantum computers.

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