The adoption of quantum computing technology could prove to be revolutionary for India to reduce its carbon footprint
A key dimension of this is simulating these chemical reactions computationally, which requires an analysis of their molecular interactions on a quantum scale.One of the methods used to counteract global warming is by using atmospheric carbon capture in which certain compounds, mostly amines, for eg. ammonia (NH3), are used to chemically bind with CO2, effectively removing it from the atmosphere. The caveat is that the current reactions being used tend to be expensive and not very efficient. So, using these does not seem to be economically viable at present. Therefore, scientists are still in search of more optimised carbon capture reactions. A key dimension of this is simulating these chemical reactions computationally, which requires an analysis of their molecular interactions on a quantum scale. This, however, is easier said than done, as these calculations lie beyond the capability of classical computers, even for the simplest compounds. This is where quantum computing technology steps in.
VQE utilises a quantum computer to estimate the energy of a quantum system, while using a classical computer to optimise and suggest improvements to the calculation.One possible remedy to this problem is to combine quantum and classical computers, to overcome the problem of noise in quantum algorithms. This approach has led to the creation of the Variational Quantum Eigensolver<2> (VQE)—a method used by the group at NETL and the University of Kentucky. VQE utilises a quantum computer to estimate the energy of a quantum system, while using a classical computer to optimise and suggest improvements to the calculation. It has been successfully used to solve complex problems like finding the binding energy of hydrogen atom chains and the energy of a water molecule. However, with the rapid advancement in quantum computing tech, both these problems are expected to be resolved by the second half of this decade. CO2 capture research is considered to be one of the low-hanging fruits for the application of quantum computing and the technology to implement algorithms like these seems to be merely years away. This could have potentially huge ramifications since it is estimated that this could help develop climate change technologies which will be able to reduce carbon emissions by the order of 7 gigatons per year by 2035. The NETL-Kentucky team is now collaborating with IBM Quantum to implement their algorithm on an existing quantum computer.
India has recently made huge investments in the field of quantum technology, with the Centre allocating INR 8,000 crores for the National Quantum Mission, to fund scientific and industrial research development.It is clear that increasing its investment in quantum computing technology is bound to provide India with a myriad of advantages. The fact that it could potentially help to drastically reduce national carbon emissions provides further impetus to this cause. India, being one of the biggest contributors to global carbon emissions, would do well to pay attention. Besides, this technology has potentially far-reaching consequences when it comes to other calculations in quantum chemistry. The algorithm being developed by the NETL/Kentucky team could also be applied to other chemical reactions with potential applications in chemistry, biology, and medicine. In the US, IBM has taken the lead in conducting research in quantum computing and is collaborating with universities from all around the world. For instance, it announced a US$ 100-million initiative with the University of Tokyo and the University of Chicago to develop a 100,000 qubit quantum-centric supercomputer at the G7 Summit held in Japan recently. It has also announced a three-year collaboration with the National University of Singapore, which will give researchers access to IBM’s quantum computers on the cloud. In the UK, the University of Oxford’s Responsible Technology Institute (RTI) has recently announced a research collaboration with the Quantum Computing and Simulation Hub (QCS)— a conglomeration of 17 universities supported by a wide range of commercial and government organisations—and Ernst & Young. The Indian government, along with the country’s premier institutions like the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and Indian Institute of Science (IISC), should enter into such collaborations with some of these organisations and universities.
The fact that it could potentially help to drastically reduce national carbon emissions provides further impetus to this cause. India, being one of the biggest contributors to global carbon emissions, would do well to pay attention.It would also be advantageous for the private sector to invest in this technology. Quantum computers, being exponentially faster than classical computers, can tackle more complex and sophisticated business problems. “Constant depth” quantum circuits have proved to be more powerful than their classical counterparts. Their ability to solve complex logistics optimisation problems will provide several industries with considerable cost-cutting measures. This is why companies like Vodafone and ExxonMobil have recently announced partnerships with IBM to invest in research in quantum computing technology. There is an urgent need for the Indian private sector to follow suit as its presence in this domain is seriously lacking and the government needs to incentivise it to do the same.
The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.
Bhavin Vadera Project Management Specialist USAIDRead More +