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Qubits for the future: YouTube documentary explores how quantum computing could promote sustainability

26 Oct 2021 Laura Hiscott
Taken from the October 2021 issue of Physics World where it first appeared under the headline "Qubits for the future".

Laura Hiscott reviews Quantum Technology | Our Sustainable Future by The Quantum Daily

Still image from Quantum Technology | Our Sustainable Future
Still image from Quantum Technology | Our Sustainable Future. (Courtesy: The Quantum Daily)

How could quantum computing help us to fix climate change? This is the question at the heart of Quantum Technology | Our Sustainable Future, a half-hour-long documentary published on YouTube in July.

Made by “The Quantum Daily”, a resource for news and information on all things quantum, the documentary consists of interviews with people working in a host of organizations in the sector, from Oxford Instruments NanoScience to Google Quantum AI. The main idea is that, since quantum computers have the potential to be much more powerful than classical ones, they could speed up the discovery of solutions, such as molecules that would be very effective at carbon capture.

One concept I find especially intriguing is “using nature to simulate nature”. Since quantum effects are involved in certain naturally occurring processes, quantum computers should be able to simulate them better than classical computers. This could help us understand nitrogen fixation that happens in soil, for example, which we might then simulate to manufacture fertilisers at room temperature. (Our current methods require very high temperatures and pressures, and account for around 2% of our global energy usage.)

The final section of the documentary acknowledges that there is a long way to go to achieve useful quantum computers, and addresses the fact that they currently require vast amounts of energy, since they need to be cooled down to temperatures colder than space. With the latest IPCC report stressing that immediate action is paramount, I’m not sure this technology will arrive in time to help us. However, the quantum scientists’ excitement is infectious, and I look forward to seeing how it plays out.

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