Context: Union Cabinet has approved the National Quantum Mission (NQM) at a cost of Rs 6,003.65 crore. The mission will have defined milestones that are expected to be achieved over the course of eight years (2023-24 to 2030-31).
- Quantum computers utilise the principles of quantum mechanics to perform certain types of computations much faster than classical computers.
- Quantum mechanics is a theory in physics that deals with the behaviour of matter and energy at the most fundamental level (at the scale of atoms and subatomic particles).
- Classical computers process information using bits, which are either 0 or 1, whereas quantum computing uses quantum bits, or qubits, which can be in a superposition of both 0 and 1 states at the same time. This property of superposition allows quantum computers to perform certain types of calculations much faster than classical computers.
- The power of a quantum computer scales exponentially with the number of qubits, unlike classical computers, which scale linearly with the number of bits.
- The principle is used in semiconductors, lasers, Blu-ray, transistors, mobile phones, USB drives, MRI, electron microscopes, and even the basic light switch.
Major Highlights of the Mission
- The new mission targets developing 20-50 physical ‘qubits’ in three years, 50-100 physical qubits in five years and intermediate-scale quantum computers with 50-1,000physical qubits in 8 years.
- In classical computing, the smallest and most basic unit of information that can be processed and stored is called a ‘bit’.
- In quantum computing, the basic unit of information is called a ‘qubit’.
- Some of the deliverables of the Mission are:
- Developing satellite-based secure quantum communications between ground stations over a range of 2,000 kilometres within India
- long-distance secure quantum communications with other countries
- inter-city quantum key distribution over 2000 km
- multi-node quantum network with quantum memories.
- The mission will help develop magnetometers with high sensitivity in atomic systems, and atomic clocks for precision timing, communications and navigation.
- It will support the design and synthesis of quantum materials such as superconductors, novel semiconductor structures and topological materials for the fabrication of quantum devices.
- Single photon sources/detectors, and entangled photon sources will also be developed for quantum communications, sensing and metrological applications.
- Four Thematic Hubs (T-Hubs) would be set up in top academic and National R&D institutes on the domains of ‘quantum computing’, ‘quantum communication’, ‘quantum sensing and metrology’ and ‘quantum materials and devices’.
- The hubs will focus on the generation of new knowledge through basic and applied research as well as promote R&D in areas that are mandated to them.
- Qubits are extremely delicate and prone to errors, and increasing the number of qubits while maintaining their stability is a major challenge in the development of quantum computers.
- Presently, only six countries — the US, Finland, Austria, France, China and Canada — have some capability in this domain. The mission will bring India to the forefront along with them.
- It will accelerate the development of Quantum Technologies & Applications and technology-led economic growth in the country.
- It would greatly benefit communication, health, financial and energy sectors as well as drug design, and space applications.
- It will provide a huge boost to “national priorities” like ‘Digital India’, ‘Make in India’, ‘Skill India’, ‘Stand-up India’, ‘Startup India’, ‘Self-reliant India’ and Sustainable Development Goals.
- The technology will secure the country’s defence communication but also act as a deterrent, preventing the attempt to hack into India’s communication networks.
India’s quantum mission
- India’s quantum mission has been in the works since 2018, when the Department of Science & Technology put out a call for proposals on projects related to the field of quantum computing.
- QuEST (Quantum-Enabled Science & Technology) falls under the department’s Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (ICPS) division.