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UN Year of Quantum Science and Technology

Context: The United Nations will declare the year 2025 as the ‘International Year of Quantum Science and Technology’.

Quantum Technology

  • It utilises principles from Quantum mechanics to understand fundamental particles like atoms and subatomic particles.
  • Exploits unique behaviours such as superposition and entanglement to advance technologies.
  • Quantum technology is a major focus of research for both government bodies and private entities..

Quantum Mechanics Paradigm

  • Quantum Superposition: Particles can exist simultaneously in multiple quantum states.
    • Particles exhibit wave-like behaviours, akin to overlapping ripples in a pond.
  • Quantum Entanglement: Describes a phenomenon where particles become interconnected and cannot be described independently.
    • Changes to one entangled particle affect its pair instantaneously, regardless of distance.
  • Quantum Algorithms: Designed to leverage entanglement to solve complex problems more efficiently.
  • Quantum Teleportation: Involves transferring quantum states across long distances without physically moving the particles.
  • Quantum Interference: Occurs when multiple waves superimpose to produce a stronger (constructive) or weaker (destructive) wave.
    • Constructive interference is used to amplify preferred outcomes from many potential results.
  • Observance: The process of observing and measuring quantum states, which leads to the collapse of quantum properties, settling them into one of the possible states.

Applications of Quantum Technology

  • Quantum Communication: Utilises quantum physics properties for enhanced security and long-distance communication.
    • Quantum key distribution (QKD) employs qubits for encrypting keys, making them harder to intercept compared to classical binary bits.
    • Qubits are extremely sensitive, and any interference or observation causes them to collapse, enhancing security.
  • Quantum Simulation: Used to understand large quantum systems or to solve complex problems through quantum simulations.
    • Simulating a quantum system with another quantum system allows for easier control and study.
    • Quantum simulators inherently understand quantum mechanics, simplifying processes.
    • Useful in studying protein folding and potential treatments for diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
    • Essential for developing high-temperature superconductors.
  • Quantum Computation: Employs quantum physics to achieve computation speeds unattainable with classical computers.
    • Uses “qubits” instead of “bits,” with superposition allowing simultaneous multiple operations, significantly speeding up processes.
  • Quantum Sensing and Metrology: Advanced sensor technology that detects changes in motion, and electric and magnetic fields at the atomic level.
    • Enables highly precise measurements: Applications include healthcare, medical research, earth observation, early detection of natural calamities, environmental monitoring, construction, energy, navigation, and defence.
    • Quantum Materials:
    • Used in the development of solar cells and energy-efficient devices like batteries and diagnostic tools in healthcare.
    • Examples include fluorescent quantum dots for multicolour bioimaging and labelling specific cellular proteins.

Advantages of Quantum Technology

  • Increased Computing Power: Quantum computers operate significantly faster than current computers and can solve complex problems that are presently unmanageable.
  • Improved Security: Quantum encryption methods, based on quantum mechanics principles, offer substantially higher security compared to traditional encryption techniques.
  • Faster Communication: Quantum communication networks enable quicker and more secure information transmission, potentially leading to unhackable communications.
  • Enhanced AI: Quantum machine learning algorithms could improve the efficiency and accuracy of training Artificial Intelligence models.
  • Better Sensing and Measurement: Quantum sensors are highly sensitive to environmental changes, beneficial in fields like medical diagnostics, environmental monitoring, and geological exploration.

Disadvantages of Quantum Technology

  • High Costs: Requires specialised equipment and materials, making it more expensive than traditional technologies.
  • Limited Applications: Currently, quantum technology is practical for niche applications such as cryptography, quantum computing, and quantum communications only.
  • Environmental Sensitivity: Extremely sensitive to environmental factors like temperature fluctuations, magnetic fields, and vibrations, which can disrupt quantum properties and affect calculations.
  • Control Challenges: Difficult to control and manipulate quantum systems, posing challenges in management and operation.
  • Unpredictable AI Outcomes: Quantum-powered AI systems may produce unexpected or difficult-to-explain results due to their operations based on fundamentally different principles from classical computing.

Quantum Technologies in India

National Quantum Mission

  • Launched in 2023 to foster scientific and industrial research in Quantum Technology (QT) and Applications (QTA).
  • Aims to establish a vibrant ecosystem for QT-led economic growth and position India as a leader in QTA.
  • Objectives of the Mission:
    • Develop quantum computers with 50-1000 qubits within eight years using superconducting and photonic technology.
    • Implement secure satellite-based quantum communications across ground stations over a 2000 km range within India.
    • Establish secure long-distance quantum communications internationally.
    • Set up inter-city quantum key distribution networks and multi-node Quantum networks over a 2000 km range.
  • Focus Areas:
    • Development of high-sensitivity magnetometers, atomic clocks, and atomic systems for precision in timing, communications, and navigation.
    • Design and synthesis of quantum materials like superconductors, topological materials, and innovative semiconductor structures.

Other Steps

  • Thematic Hubs (T-Hubs): To be established in top academic and national institutes, focusing on quantum computing, communication, sensing, metrology, and materials/devices.
  • Quantum Research Facilities: The Indian Army established a Quantum Lab at the Military College of Telecommunication Engineering in Madhya Pradesh for advanced research and training in quantum technologies.
  • QuEST Initiative: Launched by the Department of Science and Technology to develop research facilities in quantum technology.
  • QSimToolkit: An indigenously developed toolkit designed to aid the learning and understanding of practical aspects of Quantum Computers for researchers and students.
    • Provides a platform for acquiring skills in Quantum Code and designing real quantum hardware.
  • Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT): A leading telecom research and development organisation in India, developing products in Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) and continuing research in this field.

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