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Quantum Computers and India

Context: Recently, the Union Cabinet approved the ₹6,003 crore National Quantum Mission (NQM) that will fund research and development of quantum computing technology and associated applications.

About the National Quantum Mission (NQM)

Implementing Agency and Duration

The mission will be implemented by the Department of Science & Technology (DST) under the Ministry of Science & Technology from 2023 to 2031.

Key features of the Mission

  • The new mission targets developing- 
    • Intermediate-scale quantum computers with 50-1000 physical qubits in 8 years in various platforms like superconducting and photonic technology,
    • Satellite-based secure quantum communications between ground stations over a range of 2000 kilometers within India,
    • Long-distance secure quantum communications with other countries,
    • Inter-city quantum key distribution over 2000 km as well as,
    • Multi-node Quantum network with quantum memories.
  • The mission will help develop magnetometers with high sensitivity for precision timing (atomic clocks), communications, and navigation.
  • It will also support design and synthesis of quantum materials such as superconductors, novel semiconductor structures and topological materials for fabrication of quantum devices.
  • Four Thematic Hubs (T-Hubs) would be set up in top academic and National R&D institutes on the domains of Quantum Technology:
    • Quantum computation
    • Quantum communication
    • Quantum Sensing & Metrology
    • Quantum Materials & Devices.

Significance of the Mission

  • The mission aims to scale up scientific and industrial R&D, for accelerating Quantum Technology-led economic growth and leverage India into a leading nation in the area.
  • With the launch of this mission, India will be the seventh country to have a dedicated quantum mission after the US, Austria, Finland, France, Canada and China.

What is Quantum Computing?

  • Quantum Computing utilizes principles of quantum mechanics to carry out computation.
  • Unlike classical computing, which uses bits that can only be in one of two states (0 or 1), quantum computing uses quantum bits (qubits) that can be in multiple states at once.
  • This allows quantum computers to perform certain types of calculations faster than classical computers, and to solve problems that are difficult or impossible for classical computers to solve.
  • Properties of Quantum Computing:
    • Superimposition: Superposition is the ability of a Quantum Computing system to be in multiple states simultaneously.
    • Entanglement: It is the state where two systems are so strongly correlated that getting information about one system will give immediate information about the other, even if they are far apart.
    • Interference: Interference can control quantum states and amplify the signals that go towards the right answer, while signals that are leading to the wrong answer are cancelled.

Benefits of Quantum Computing

  • Increase processing speed: Compared to classical computers, including super computers, Quantum Computing can process information faster.
  • Scientific discoveries: Quantum Computer can be used to fasten scientific discoveries of life-saving drugs, and improve supply chains, logistics and the modelling of financial data.
  • Higher privacy: The security of Quantum Computing is very high. Quantum Computing are difficult to be hacked due to their use of qubits.
  • Emerging technologies: Quantum Computing have application in emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning due to their faster processing.
  • Disaster prediction: Quantum Computing can be used to predict disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, droughts etc. through advanced calculation.

Concerns Associated with Quantum Computing

  • Higher cost: The cost of setting of Quantum Computing system is high. It will require a significant support from multinational companies.
  • Temperature control: Quantum computers dissipate high heat and consume high amount of electric power. They require low temperature for operation.
  • High error rate: The error rate of Quantum Computing is high in comparison to error rate of conventional computers.
  • Sensitivity to Environment: Quantum technology is highly sensitive to environmental interference, such as temperature changes, magnetic fields, and vibrations.
    • Qubits are easily disrupted by their surroundings which can cause them to lose their quantum properties and make mistakes in calculations.
  • Limited Control: It is difficult to control and manipulate quantum systems. Quantum-powered AI could create unintended consequences.

Other Important Initiative by the Government

Quantum-Enabled Science and Technology (QuEST) Department of Science and Technology (DST) will invest to develop infrastructure and facilitate research in the field of quantum technologies.
Quantum Frontier mission The Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC) will promote understanding and control of quantum mechanical systems.
Quantum Computer Simulator Toolkit (QSim) This will help researchers and students to write and debug Quantum Code that is necessary for developing Quantum Algorithms and carry out research in the field.
I-HUB QTF DST and research groups from IISER have launched I-HUB Quantum Technology Foundation (I-HUB QTF) to develop quantum technology.
Quantum Computing Applications Lab Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has collaborated with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to establish a to facilitate quantum computing-led research and development.

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