Quantum computing is one of the hottest technologies in the world right now, but it also considered an extremely complicated field because the quantum concepts involved aren’t easy to understand. To make it simple for folks interested in learning about quantum computing, I will be writing a series of blogs to give a holistic understanding of what the quantum industry is and what the technologies mean.
Let’s start off with an understanding of what quantum computing is, how it’s going to reshape the world, and what the current market trends look like.
What is Quantum Computing?
Currently, computers are made with silicon transistors. These transistors are getting smaller and more powerful with each passing year. However, there is a physical limit to this technology. In these types of circuits, if the conductors are too close to each other, electrons can bounce between them. Moreover, if a transistor is too small, electrons can go through the gate of the transistor. This phenomenon is known as quantum tunneling and can ruin the entire circuit. It’s clear that the uncertain behavior of quantum particles is the basis of the physical limits of silicon circuits.
Scientists invented a new computer technology with this uncertain behavior of quantum particles, known as quantum computing.
Even though quantum computing isn’t an absolute replacement for silicon computers, in specific cases, it can provide unbelievable processing power.
Bits are used to store data in a computer. When the transistor is active, it’s a 1 and when inactive it’s a 0. The formula 2^bits represents the number of combinations bits can create.
A quantum particle is used as a bit in quantum computers. It’s called a qubit. It could be an electron, photon, or any particle, but outer electrons in phosphorus atoms are commonly used. Here, it’s a 1 when the spin is up and 0 when it’s down. The spin can be controlled with an electromagnetic field. So far, it seems like quantum and silicon computers are very similar, but quantum particles are mysterious. The spin of electrons can be up, down, and when we’re not observing, they can be up and down at the same time. This is known as quantum superposition. Hence, quantum computers can provide incredible processing power.
In a classical computer, if we have 2 bits, it can create 4 combinations, yet use only one at a time. Also, 4 combinations can be created by 2 qubits. Due to superposition, it can use them all at the same time. With 20 and 60 qubits, it can maintain one million combinations and any number of combinations equal to all the particles in the universe respectively. Because of this, it’s clear that a quantum computer is not a substitution for a classical computer. They are particularly designed for parallel processing. For example:
- A quantum computer won’t be able to give additional speed for day-to-day work. Occasionally, it could be slower.
- Quantum computers can be used for database searching because they can search many paths at once, thus greatly reducing search time.
- The development of quantum computers could affect data security. Encryption is used for data protection. To break an encryption code, you will have to force it. Even a supercomputer will take trillions of years to do that, but a quantum computer can do this in a short period of time.
- Simulations are used by scientists to predict the behavior of weather, space, DNA, etc. Simulations are time-consuming because there are millions of calculations. Quantum computers can reduce the time it takes to run simulations because they can perform millions of calculations at once.
- Quantum computers need very specific environmental conditions and we can’t observe inside processes when they’re running, as it will damage superposition.
Will Quantum Computing Reshape the World of Computing?
Classical computers use bits (0 or 1) to process information. But if we use quantum particles as data, something interesting happens. By using superposition, they can read both as a 0 or a 1 at the same time. This makes the amount of data that can be represented exponentially greater and allows quantum computers to process far more data than classical computers will ever be able to do. If a quantum computer had 100 qubits, it would be more powerful for some applications than all of the supercomputers on earth combined. Three hundred qubits could hold more numbers simultaneously than there are atoms in the universe. So, think about what a billion qubits would be able to do.
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To put it all into context, a modern laptop can model 26 electrons and a supercomputer 43 electrons. But what about a 50-electron system? That’s impossible for any classical computer that exists. But it would be an easy task for a quantum computer with multiple qubits.
Entanglement is another phenomenon where two particles can be linked so that one particle always gives the same outcome as the other even if they are separated on opposite sides of the earth or even the universe. They would show the same result as each other every single time.
It’s still being debated, but entangled particles could make communication instant, regardless of the distance between the particles. It would be great for security as well since it potentially doesn’t use any physical infrastructure to transfer this information. This means that in the future, it may be impossible for communication to be intercepted or hacked without the knowledge of the information owner.
Classical computers use logic gates to run functions. Quantum gates can do a lot more – the gates entangle change probabilities and collapse superposition qubits to produce results. Simply put, they can run all possibilities at once. On a classical computer, it would check all the probabilities one by one.
This means that quantum computers can find a solution much faster, especially on large data sets. But it goes far beyond this. If you want to model the world, we can encode the very rules of physics into its operations on qubits just like we would use logic gate circuits on classical bits. It’s almost like coding pure physics into the fundamental essence of nature and reality. It’s not just some mathematical approximation of reality like we do now in science.
Finding New Materials
Quantum computers could simulate our universe, permitting us to model new molecules in arrangements we haven’t discovered and test them to find new materials. These new materials can help create other revolutions in science and engineering never before thought possible, such as powerful new energy sources, super-strong materials, superconductors, and incredibly effective medicines. The world is made up of atoms and molecules, and if we could simulate those accurately, we’d be well on our way to a new paradigm.
Dealing With Nature’s Exponential Complexity
Nature and reality itself are a quantum system that can’t be effectively modeled on a classical computer. It all boils down to this: the information required to describe a quantum system can only be held by another quantum system. Because of the qubits, quantum computers are quantum, and just like nature, they have no problem keeping up with nature’s exponential complexity.
The Global Commercial Quantum Computing Market
As you can see, the quantum market is highly competitive. In 2019, the quantum computing market was valued at $507.1M; it is projected to grow at an annual growth rate of 56% during the forecast period (2020-2030), achieving $64,988.3M by 2030.
By that time, Europe and North America are projected to account for more than 78% of the quantum computing market, as Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Russia are heavily investing in the field.
The National Security Agency (NSA), Los Alamos National Laboratory, and NASA are involved in quantum computing technology development. An increasing number of partnerships are being witnessed in these regions, along with the entry of several startups.
The leading companies operating in the extremely competitive quantum computing market are:
- Telstra Corporation Limited
- Silicon Quantum Computing
- Alphabet Inc.
- Huawei Investment & Holding Co. Ltd.
- D-Wave Systems Inc.
Google (the main operating subsidiary of Alphabet Inc.), in collaboration with the NSA, is establishing the Quantum AI Laboratory, where the quantum computers developed by D-Wave Systems Inc. are being used.
What Does This Mean?
There is still much to learn about quantum computing and its potential impact on the technology industry. Stay tuned to this blog series as we explore what we do know about quantum computing.