Quantum computing is a branch of computer science that is based on the principles of the superposition of matter and quantum entanglement and uses a different computation method from the traditional one. In theory, it would be able to store many more states per unit of information and operate with much more efficient algorithms at the numerical level, such as Shor’s or quantum annealing.
This new generation of supercomputers uses knowledge of quantum mechanics — the area of physics that studies atomic and subatomic particles — to overcome the limitations of classic computing. Although in practice, quantum computing faces evident problems regarding scalability and incoherence, it makes it possible to perform multiple simultaneous operations and eliminates the tunnel effect that limits current nanometric scale programming.
Quantum computers are machines that use the properties of quantum physics to store data and perform computations. This can be extremely advantageous for certain tasks where they could vastly outperform even our best supercomputers.
USES OF QUANTUM COMPUTERS
A primary application for quantum computing is artificial intelligence (AI). AI is based on the principle of learning from experience, becoming more accurate as feedback is given, until the computer program appears to exhibit “intelligence.”
This feedback is based on calculating the probabilities for many possible choices, and so AI is an ideal candidate for quantum computing. It promises to disrupt every industry, from automotives to medicine, and it’s been said AI will be to the twenty-first century what electricity was to the 20th century.
For example, Lockheed Martin plans to use its D-Wave quantum computer to test autopilot software that is currently too complex for classical computers, and Google is using a quantum computer to design software that can distinguish cars from landmarks. We have already reached the point where AI is creating more AI, and so its importance will rapidly escalate.
Another example is precision modeling of molecular interactions, finding the optimum configurations for chemical reactions. Such “quantum chemistry” is so complex that only the simplest molecules can be analyzed by today’s digital computers.
Chemical reactions are quantum in nature as they form highly entangled quantum superposition states. But fully-developed quantum computers would not have any difficulty evaluating even the most complex processes.
Google has already made progress in this field by simulating the energy of hydrogen molecules. The implication of this is more efficient products, from solar cells to pharmaceutical drugs, and especially fertilizer production;
Most online security currently depends on the difficulty of factoring large numbers into primes. While this can presently be accomplished by using digital computers to search through every possible factor, the immense time required makes “cracking the code” expensive and impractical.
Quantum computers can perform more efficiently than digital computers, meaning such security methods will soon become obsolete.
There are also promising quantum encryption methods being developed using the one-way nature of quantum entanglement. City-wide networks have already been demonstrated in several countries.
Modern markets are some of the most complicated systems in existence. While we have developed increasingly scientific and mathematical tools to address this, it still suffers from one major difference between other scientific fields: there’s no controlled setting in which to run experiments.
To solve this,quantum computing has been adopted One immediate advantage is that the randomness inherent to quantum computers is formidable.
Another advantage quantum offers is that financial operations such as arbitrage may require many path-dependent steps, the number of possibilities quickly outpacing the capacity of a digital computer.
NOAA Chief Economist Rodney F Weiher claims (PowerPoint file) that nearly 30 percent of the US GDP ($6 trillion) is directly or indirectly affected by weather, impacting food production, transportation, and retail trade, among others. The ability to better predict the weather would have enormous benefit to many fields, not to mention more time to take cover from disasters.
While this has long been a goal of scientists, the equations governing such processes contain many, many variables, making classical simulation lengthy. As quantum researcher Seth Lloyd pointed out, “Using a classical computer to perform such analysis might take longer than it takes the actual weather to evolve!” This motivated Lloyd and colleagues at MIT to show that the equations governing the weather possess a hidden wave nature which are amenable to solution by a quantum computer.
Coming full circle, a final application of this exciting new physics might be… studying exciting new physics. Models of particle physics are often extraordinarily complex, confounding pen-and-paper solutions and requiring vast amounts of computing time for numerical simulation. This makes them ideal for quantum computation, and researchers have already been taking advantage of this.
Researchers at the University of Innsbruck and the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information recently used a programmable quantum system to perform such simulation. Published in Nature, the team used a simple version of quantum computer in which ions performed logical operations, the basic steps in any computer calculation. This simulation showed excellent agreement compared to actual experiments of the physics described.
“These two approaches complement one another perfectly,” says theoretical physicist Peter Zoller. “We cannot replace the experiments that are done with particle colliders. However, by developing quantum simulators, we may be able to understand these experiments better one day.”
Investors are now scrambling to insert themselves into the quantum computing system, and it’s not just the computer industry: banks, aerospace companies, and cybersecurity firms are among those taking advantage of the computational revolution.
While quantum computing is already impacting the fields listed above, the list is by no means exhaustive, and that’s the most exciting part. As with all new technology, presently unimaginable applications will be developed as the hardware continues to evolve and create new opportunities.
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