India’s Quantum Mission

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    In News

    • India’s National Quantum Mission could be a game changer in multiple sectors, from defence, energy, and environment to healthcare and civil applications.

    About Quantum Technology 

    • About:
      • It is based on the principles of Quantum mechanics developed in the early 20th century to describe nature at the scale of atoms and elementary particles. 
      • Scientists have expanded quantum theory to understand biological phenomena such as smell, consciousness, enzyme catalysis, photosynthesis, avian navigation like that of the Robin, origin of life and effects on coronavirus. 
    • Applications:
      • It is manifested through applications in secure communication, disaster management through better prediction, computing, simulation, chemistry, healthcare, cryptography, imaging among others

    About National Quantum Mission (NQM) 

    • About:
      • It will mainly work towards strengthening India’s research and development in the quantum arena alongside indigenously building quantum-based (physical qubit) computers which are far more powerful to perform the most complex problems in a highly secure manner.
      • DST will lead this national mission, supported by other departments. 
        • Presently, R&D works in quantum technologies are underway in the US, Canada, France, Finland, China, and Austria.
    • Focus: 
      • The mission will focus on developing quantum computers (qubit) with physical qubit capacities ranging between 50 – 1000 qubits developed over the next eight years. 
        • Computers up to 50 physical qubits will be developed over three years, 
        • 50 – 100 physical qubits in five years, and 
        • Computers up to 1000 physical qubits in eight years.
      • It will also 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.
    • Themes: 
      • Four Thematic Hubs (T-Hubs) will be set up in top academic and National R&D institutes on the domains – 
        • Quantum Computing, 
        • Quantum Communication, 
        • Quantum Sensing & Metrology, and 
        • Quantum Materials & 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.

    Quantum Materials

    • About:
      • Quantum materials are a class of matter or systems that allow us to exploit some of the unique properties of quantum physics and accomplish tasks that classical technology is incapable of. 
    • Origin:
      • The concept of “quantum materials” was originally introduced to identify some of the exotic quantum systems, including unconventional superconductors, heavy-fermion systems, and multifunctional oxides. 
    • Significance:
      • It has now morphed into a powerful unifying concept across diverse fields of science and engineering, including solid state physics, cold atoms (atoms cooled to close to absolute zero whereby their quantum mechanical properties are unveiled), materials science and quantum computing.
      • R&D in quantum materials today embraces traditional semiconductors, superconductors, and non-linear optical crystals directly relevant to computing, communication, and sensing. 

    Quantum Devices

    • Research on new architectures to incorporate quantum materials into functional units has progressed simultaneously, leading to the concept of “quantum devices”.
      • A strong emphasis on quantum materials and devices is an integral component of any quantum technology mission. 

    Significance

    • For India, investments in quantum materials and devices can generate a cadre of highly skilled workforce
    • As India gears to become the world’s third-largest economy by 2027, a strongly networked material infrastructure in the country will be crucial. 
      • It will cater to not just quantum technologies but also other major scientific megaprojects ranging from the semiconductor mission to neutrino observatory and gravitational wave detection. 
    • 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 and Stand-up India, Start-up India, Self-reliant India, and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

    Suggestions

    • Research:
      • Research will be required to develop low-loss materials for superconducting quantum electronics that preserve quantum information over a long period, novel semiconductor nanostructures for the high-brightness source of entangled photons and much more. 
        • The impact of much of the research cuts across multiple verticals of quantum technologies, and this necessitates dedicated and centralised material/device infrastructures.
    • Capacity building:
      • Achieving these tasks will require leveraging the evolving scientific infrastructure in the country and aligning with some of the key national mandates. 
      • Capacity building in the past two decades under national initiatives, such as the Nano Mission, has enabled a five-fold increase in research publications in this area
    • Need of new talent:
      • The National Quantum mission will require a significant component of materials research to be carried out in goal-oriented multi-institutional consortia. 
      • This will demand strategic recruitment of new talent, synergistic multi-institutional collaboration and political will to ease bureaucratic norms and prevent delays in infrastructure building — to ensure that the mission’s deadlines are met.
    • Benefitting from existing initiatives:
      • This activities could also benefit from the government’s support through the Startup India initiative and other schemes.

    Way Ahead

    • India needs to create a well-balanced R&D ecosystem where material research for near-term goals and applications needs to coexist and collaborate with those with more fundamental and futuristic objectives.
    • Material domains in all aspects of quantum technology — computing, communications, and sensing — are still developing. 
    • Hence there is a chance that through timely investment and efficient management, India will emerge a global leader in the field.

    Daily Mains Question

    [Q] India’s National Quantum Mission could be a game changer in multiple sectors. Suggest the ways for India to emerge as a global leader in the field of Quantum Technology.