A quantum leap PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 11 December 2020 03:01
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Ishaan edit 

Earlier this year, when the University of Chicago (UoC) created a 52-mile quantum loop to transfer sub-atomic particles, this was hailed as a step towards quantum internet given a successful connection over such a distance had not been established before. The UoC experiment involved a connection between two points, and not over a network like the present-day internet offers. Subsequently, the US department of energy released a blueprint for national quantum internet, predicting that this technology would be available within a decade.

The US is not the only country working on quantum internet; China, the Netherlands, and the UK have conducted similar experiments, but over relatively smaller distances. The University of Bristol in the UK has also created a hub linking eight different connections. Against this backdrop, India joining this elite group on Wednesday is a welcome development.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) demonstrated communication between two labs using quantum key distribution technology. This point-to-point connection was established between Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) and The Research Centre Imarat (RCI) in Hyderabad, situated a little under 10 km apart. While India’s achievement is modest in comparison to other countries—Delft University will be connecting two cities using the technology later this month—it is still significant, given that the country has only invested only Rs 186 crore in this so far.

The government had announced plans to invest Rs 8,000 crore in a National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications (NM-QTA)—to put India on a par with other countries—but allocations are yet to be made. However, with the government trying to rope in the private sector and academia, there is reason to believe that not only will funding problems ease but also that R&D and application are not limited to the government’s efforts and purposes. In an interview with FE, the secretary of the department of science and technology had stated that the government will follow a four-tier model under which an apex committee with equal participation from academia, industry and government will set the broad parameters, and hubs, which will be independent entities, will oversee implementation of the NM-QTA. The centres will be the focus for innovation, and the spokes will focus on individual parameters related to quantum technology. The department also plans to create a quantum computer with a 50-qubit capacity within five years. But, as most of these plans are still in the consultation stage, and India lags behind other countries by at least two-three years, it will have to move fast in this direction.

Even if quantum technology has limited application—internet speeds would be much slower, but the connection will be extremely secure—security infrastructure and scientific research will largely be dependent on such systems. Countries can use quantum computers to break encryption protocols easily. India is already far behind other countries in terms of supercomputers. It is about time it took a quantum leap.


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