Advancing quantum technology by strengthening security

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    Advancing quantum technology by strengthening security

    Syllabus: GS3/ Science & Technology, Indian Economy & Related Issues, Growth & Development

    In News

    • India must develop its quantum technologies soon, not just to solve the domestic issues but also to guard the nation from foreign security threats.

    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, security, among others
    • Global race for quantum technology:
    • The race to harness the power of quantum has become a defining battleground between global superpowers, China and the United States, as quantum technologies offer unprecedented advantages in various sectors.
    • For now, the US maintains superiority in quantum technology. 
    • But China is gaining momentum, already leading in the development of quantum communications and the total number of quantum technology patents.
    • India & quantum technology:
      • India has modest capabilities already. 
      • This includes a Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) link covering 100 km between Prayagraj and Vindhyachalm, demonstrated by scientists from DRDO and IIT-Delhi.
      • The Indian Army has set up a Quantum Computing Lab, backed by the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) of India.

    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.

    Significance

    • Global presence: 
      • India will be the sixth country to form a quantum mission after the US, Austria, Finland, France and China.
    • Indicative of Nation’s focus:
      • While much of the focus of NQM is centered on scientific research, the very fact that India launched a dedicated national mission to expedite quantum research is in itself an indication of New Delhi’s strategic perspective. 
      • The NQM is expected to have far-reaching benefits for sectors such as communication, healthcare, finance, energy, drug design, and space applications.
    • Workforce & infrastructure:
      • 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. 
    • Boost for other missions:
      • 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).

    Challenges

    • Quantum computing has the potential to break the encryption on which most enterprises, digital infrastructures and economies rely
      • Businesses and governments could be rendered unable to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the transactions and data
    • The geopolitics of quantum technology could act as a barrier to unlocking its full value National security concerns over sovereignty, and maintaining control over strategic capability.
    • It can be the game-changer of the information race and there is a real risk that competition will interfere with international collaboration and widen asymmetries in security and industrial capability.
    • China’s quantum advances expand the spectre of quantum cyberattacks against India’s digital infrastructure, which already faces a barrage of attacks from Chinese state-sponsored hackers. 
    • India’s dependence on foreign, particularly Chinese hardware, is an additional vulnerability. 

    Suggestions 

    • 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.
    • Need of R&D ecosystem:
      • 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.
    • Security:
      • By embracing its potential and fostering collaboration with international partners, India should leverage the NQM’s capacity-building initiatives and strengthen its security posture in the quantum realm.

    Way ahead

    • 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] What is the significance of Quantum Technology for India’s defence & security sector? What are the challenges for India’s National Quantum Mission (NQM)?