“A classical computation is like a solo voice—one line of pure tones succeeding each other. A quantum computation is like a symphony—many lines of tones interfering with one another.”
― Seth Lloyd, Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes on the Cosmos
When a nation announces a budget of INR 8000 cr (USD 1200 million) for a technology mission, its time to take notice. The Government of India, in its budget 2020 had announced a National Mission on Quantum Technologies & Applications (NM-QTA) with that budget for a period of five years to be implemented by the Department of Science & Technology (DST).
India launched the country’s first ‘Quantum Computer Simulator (QSim) Toolkit’ on August 27, 2021.This toolkit will enable researchers and students to research quantum computing cost-effectively. The QSim project — executed collaboratively by IIT Roorkee, IISc Bangalore, and C-DAC — will help in developing and debugging quantum algorithms.
Quantum technology is opening up new frontiers in computing, communications, cyber security and other applications, including finance, and crypto-currency. The areas of focus for NM-QTA will be fundamental science, engineering solutions to complex problems in genetics, imaging, cryptography, remote sensing, and communications.
The foundations of quantum computers lie in quantum physics. Some of this quantum physics you would have studied in school when you studied the topics of photoelectric effect, blackbody radiation, Schrodinger’s equations, etc. Quantum computers operate in a fundamentally different way to conventional digital computers. Quantum computing (also referred to as Spooky Computing after Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance”) is based on the rules of quantum mechanics. In quantum computing, we can encode and process information by controlling quantum states. Quantum computers store and process information using quantum two level systems (quantum bits or qubits) which unlike classical bits, can be prepared in superposition states. 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. Quantum computers have the ability to crack the currently popular public-key encryption system like the 128-bit AES by 2029 (Source: US National Institute of Standards and Technology). It means businesses and governments are scrambling to improve the security of conventional networks, for example by using quantum-key cryptography. This new market for quantum technology is expected to be worth anything from $214m to $1.3bn by 2024.
Quantum technology is concerned with the control and manipulation of quantum systems. The goal is achieving information processing beyond the limits of the classical computers. Quantum principles will be used for engineering solutions to extremely complex problems in computing, communications, sensing, chemistry, cryptography, imaging and mechanics.
Applications of Quantum Technology:
2. Weather forecasting
8. Energy Distribution
9. Aerospace industry
10. Automobile industry
13. Modeling and analysis of complex molecules to accelerate the discovery of new pharmaceuticals, vaccines and new materials
Now, it will be heartening to know that we are entering the Second Quantum Revolution or Quantum 2.0. The First Quantum Revolution was concerned with exploitation of quantum matter to build quantum devices. The Second Quantum Revolution, which we are witnessing now, is the engineering of large quantum systems, with full control of the quantum state of the particle.
There is a rising demand for experts in quantum technology from India and international organizations like IBM, Google, Intel, Microsoft and many more. These opportunities are in hardware and software. Quantum technology is not concerned only with quantum computers. Quantum technology will also be seen in quantum-enabled devices. Imagine a quantum-enabled mobile phone that can do all that your phone does today multiplied by a 1000 times. Video, audio, text are passé, think of communicating touch, smell, thoughts! But classic computers are here to stay for a very long time as quantum technologies are still evolving
In tune with these emerging opportunities, a need arises for trained manpower in this field. The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru, has setup a 2-year MTech programme from August 2021. This is called the MTech in Quantum Technology. The programme has the following thrust areas: Quantum Computations and Simulation, Quantum Communication, Quantum Measurement and Sensing, and Materials for Quantum Technology.
What background is necessary for studying quantum technology? A degree such as BE, BTech, or MSc in a relevant subject (Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Computer Science) is preferred. A strong background in mathematics is mandatory. In addition, a valid GATE score is required. Although PhD physicists are in high demand in this field, students with bachelor’s degrees in physics are also highly sought after by employers. This work is hands-on and best performed by experimental physicists who are comfortable around hardware.
Other countries have also strong programmes in Quantum computing and Quantum Technology. The UK has a National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC) in Oxfordshire. According to a Harvard Business Review article, quantum information science is expected to be a multibillion dollar industry by 2030.
On April 26, 2021, Harvard University announced the world’s first PhD program in Quantum Science and Engineering(QSE), a new discipline at the intersection of physics, chemistry, computer science and electrical engineering. The first batch will be for Fall 2022. Click here for details of requirements for this program.
To know more about quantum technology, you may want to refer to these resources:
Quantum Technology – https://www.edx.org/micromasters/purduex-quantum-technology-computing
Programming a Quantum Computer with Qiskit – https://www.coursera.org/projects/programming-quantum-computer-qiskit
Introduction to Quantum Computing – https://www.coursera.org/learn/quantum-computing-algorithms
John Preskill – http://theory.caltech.edu/~preskill/ph229/
University of Cambridge – https://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/teaching/1718/QuantComp/
Qiskit Global Community – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClBNq7mCMf5xm8baE_VMl3A
Coding with Qiskit – YouTube series
Influencers on Quantum Computing: These are the people to follow on YouTube, Twitter or Facebook: (list is not in any order)
- John Preskill (Twitter: @preskill)
- Scott Aaronson – Author of Quantum Computing since Democritus
- Michelle Simmons
- Talia Gershon
- Krysta Svore
- Anastasia Marchenkova
- Bob Sutor – Author of “Dancing with Qubits: How quantum computing works and how it can change the world” (2019)
- Sabine Hossenfelder – Must watch this video.
Here is an Interesting Video:
Good Books and Kindle Editions on Quantum Computing: