Explainer: India’s quantum computing ambitions
The Centre has approved Rs 6,003 crore for the National Quantum Mission, to fund scientific and industrial research development in quantum technology. What is quantum technology and why is India so keen on investing in it? Where will the applications of this lie? Sarthak Ray takes a look at these questions
What is quantum technology
Quantum technology is largely understood as the segment of technology that is based on principles of quantum physics. Quantum physics, in turn, is the study of matter and energy at the most fundamental level, where classical laws of physics don’t apply. “It aims to uncover the properties and behaviours of the very building blocks of nature,” says Caltech.
Quantum physics principles and discoveries already mark their presence in our world—the discoveries over the decades fuelled innovation and allowed us to come up with devices and applications, such as lasers and transistors, etc. They have also put us forth on the path to quantum computing, which is still under development.
Quantum computers have the same foundational elements as classical ones—they use chips, circuits and logic gates, and operations are orchestrated by algorithms. Data is also transmitted in the binary code of 0s and 1s. Where they differ is classical computing uses bit as the fundamental unit of data; a bit can either be 1 or 0 exclusively.
Quantum computing, on the other hand, uses quantum bits or qubits. A qubit exhibits superposition—a quantum physics principle per which an object exists as the combination of multiple possible states in a simultaneous manner. Imagine waves originating from separate points on a pond and travelling outward. Eventually, waves from the distinct points of origin form a more complex pattern when they overlap. This is superposition. A qubit is a superposition of both 1 and 0 simultaneously until its state is measured.
Need for speed
Why do we need quantum computing? Well, for a start, it offers unprecedented speed of computing. We only have nascent quantum computers now, but the speed achieved by even these is mindblowing. Google’s 54-qubit Sycamore processor performed a target computation in 200 seconds; the world’s fastest supercomputer would have taken 10,000 years.
One can make qubits by manipulating normal atoms, atoms carrying electrical charge (or ions), even electrons. They can also be made by nano-engineering ‘artificial’ atoms, or semiconductor nanocrystals that have their own discrete electronic structure, like atoms. These are made with a printing method callled lithography. The states of different qubits, exhibiting superposition, can get entangled—they can be linked to each other via quantum mechanics.
Why India is betting on quantum computing The computing edge and the impact on a host of areas, including communication, is one that no country would want to miss. There are massive gains to be made in the areas of quantum cryptography and quantum sensing.
So, naturally, many nations, especially the developed ones, have been quick to announce public-sector focus on quantum computing. Six nations—the US, Canada, China, Finland, France and Germany have loosened their pursestrings to that end—the US has committed $7 billion and China $15 billion.
India, on the other hand, has scaled back funding—when the Mission was first announced in 2019, the amount earmarked was Rs 8,000 crore. The latest announcement has scaled back the amount. There are a few Indian companies that are working with MNCs on quantum computing, but what India needs is a push from the government to walk faster on quantum computing research. Globally, some marquee tech companies are working on quantum computing projects, including IBM. The technology, now, is too costly & cumbersome to get commercialised. For instance, qubits are kept in a chambers that chill them to near absolute zero temperature.
Read More at https://www.financialexpress.com/life/technology-explainer-indias-quantum-computing-ambitions-3057769/