Our quantum leap

Our quantum leap

News: Recently, The Union Cabinet approved the National Quantum Mission (NQM), putting India among the top six leading nations involved in the research and development in quantum technologies.

What is Quantum Technology?
 It is a field of science and engineering that deals with the principles of quantum mechanics, which is the study of the behavior of matter and energy at the smallest scale.
 Quantum mechanics is the branch of physics that describes the behavior of matter and energy at the atomic and subatomic level.

Potential of Quantum Technology in India:
 NQM, planned during 2023 – 2031, is worth approximately 6,000 crore. It will mainly work towards strengthening India’s research and development in the quantum arena alongside indigenously building quantum-based (physical qubit) computers.
 As far as India is concerned, investments in quantum materials and devices promise far more dividends than one can visualize.
 It will generate a skilled workforce, other major scientific projects can take significant lead ranging from semiconductor mission to neutrino observatory and gravitational wave detection.
 The infrastructure will play a key role in building self-reliance in energy and electronics industries.

What are Quantum materials?
 Quantum materials are a class of matter or systems that exploit unique properties of quantum physics. They accomplish tasks that classical technology is incapable of.
 The concept of “quantum materials” was originally introduced to identify some of the exotic quantum systems, including unconventional superconductors, heavy-fermion systems and multifunctional oxides.
 It has now morphed into a powerful unifying concept across diverse fields of science and engineering, including solid state physics, cold atoms (atoms cooled to close to absolute zero whereby their quantum mechanical properties are unveiled), materials science and quantum computing.

What are applications of Quantum materials?
 Quantum materials can be used to create new types of batteries, solar cells, and other energy-efficient devices.
 They can be used to create new types of medical devices, such as sensors and imaging devices.
 Quantum materials can be used to create new types of weapons and defence systems. For example, quantum sensors could be used to detect submarines and stealth aircraft, and quantum sensors could be used for Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT).
 Quantum materials can also enhance agricultural productivity, quality, and security by exploiting quantum effects such as biosensing, bioimaging, and nano delivery. 
 Big technology companies like IBM, Google and Microsoft are racing for ‘quantum supremacy’, which is the point where a quantum computer succeeds in solving a problem that no classical computer could solve in any feasible amount of time.

What are challenges with Quantum materials?
 Quantum materials have potential to cause health and environmental risks due to their potential toxicity and bioaccumulation.
 They pose security and ethical challenges due to their potential applications in cryptography, surveillance, and warfare.
 Quantum materials may also be expensive and difficult to synthesize, purify, and characterize due to their complex structure and composition.
 Quantum materials may also have societal implications due to their impact on human cognition, communication, and culture. For example, quantum-powered artificial intelligence may be able to surpass human intelligence.
 Materials and devices-based innovation will create new businesses from manufacturing supporting equipment. India currently imports high-end specialized devices, such as semiconductor-based singlephoton detectors, at the bulk scale.
 Currently nearly 12 percent startups are deep tech-related. It represents a nearly 35 times increase between 2016 and 2019 but less than 3 percent of these involve manufacturing and/or materials.

Way Forward
 The National Quantum mission will require a significant component of materials research to be carried out in goal-oriented multi-institutional consortia. It will demand strategic recruitment of new talent, synergistic multi-institutional collaboration and political will to ease bureaucratic norms and prevent delays in infrastructure building to ensure that the mission’s deadlines are met.
 India needs to create a well-balanced R&D ecosystem where material research for near-term goals and applications needs to coexist and collaborate with those with more fundamental and futuristic objectives.
Source – The Indian Express 

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