Quantum Computing

Quantum computers have the potential to revolutionise the way we solve some of the world's most complex problems. processing information using the principles of quantum physics.

What is a quantum computer?

Quantum computing taps into the peculiarities of quantum physics to revolutionize how we process information. Unlike traditional computers that use bits (1s and 0s), quantum computers operate with qubits. These qubits can exist as 1, 0, or both simultaneously due to a phenomenon known as superposition. This means quantum computers can process data in completely new ways.

Though we're still in the early stages of developing these advanced machines, their potential impact is vast. They can potentially dramatically change sectors like drug development by modeling complex molecules. They may herald the dawn of ultra-secure, virtually unbreakable encryption, enhancing security in ways previously unachievable. They have the potential to help design more efficient batteries, improve financial systems, drive the creation of new materials and advance scientific research.

The journey to build scalable quantum computers is fraught with technical challenges. Yet, the promise of leveraging quantum physics opens up unprecedented possibilities for innovation across numerous disciplines. Quantum computing has the potential to initiate a major technological leap, redefining our approach to problem-solving in the process.

Quantum simulation

Quantum simulation leverages the unique capabilities of quantum computers to delve into complex quantum systems that we can't otherwise accurately model.

By using the principles of quantum mechanics,  quantum computers can simulate matter much more accurately than conventional computers. This approach presents vast opportunities for innovation across science and industry.

In materials science, quantum simulation could lead to the development of novel materials with groundbreaking properties, such as room-temperature superconductors, revolutionizing technology and energy sectors. In the realm of drug discovery, quantum simulation's ability to model molecular interactions with unprecedented accuracy promises to accelerate the creation of new therapies.

Energising the future?

One example of an area where quantum computing may be able to make a significant impact is in our use and management of energy.  

As the world embraces renewable energy sources and switches to electric vehicles to combat climate change, managing the increasingly complex energy grid this creates presents a crucial optimisation challenge. This is where quantum computers, with their potential to solve certain problems more efficiently than classical computers, may be able to revolutionise energy distribution and management.

Quantum algorithms could vastly improve real-time optimisation, minimising losses, ensuring stability, and facilitating the integration of clean energy sources across the grid. They may assist in planning infrastructure expansion and maintenance, identifying the most sustainable and efficient configurations. By optimising the use of renewable resources and minimising waste, quantum computing could potentially play a key role in accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy, contributing to the fight against climate change.

What are we doing in the UK?

The UK National
Quantum Strategy

The UK government has a well developed National Quantum Strategy.  One of five quantum missions announced  in December 2023 is to ensure that by 2035, there will be accessible, UK-based quantum computers capable of running 1 trillion operations and supporting applications that provide benefits well in excess of classical supercomputers across key sectors of the economy.

The Quantum Computing & Simulation Hub

The Quantum Computing & Simulation Hub, a collaboration between 17 UK universities, is one of four technology hubs within the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme. Working with an extensive network of academic, industrial and governmental partners, the Hub focuses on addressing the critical research challenges for quantum computing, across a broad range of hardware and software disciplines.

UK National Quantum
Technologies Programme

Launched in 2014, and backed by the Government’s £2.5bn National Quantum Strategy, the NQTP builds on a decade of experience to enable the UK to be a leading quantum-enabled economy by 2033, with a world leading sector, where quantum technologies are an integral part of the UK’s future digital infrastructure and advanced manufacturing base, driving growth and helping to build a thriving and resilient economy and society.

Frequently asked questions

Confused about quantum computers? These FAQs might give you some answers!

How do quantum computers actually work?

Quantum computers work by harnessing the principles of quantum mechanics to perform calculations in fundamentally different ways from classical computers. At the heart of a quantum computer are qubits, which, unlike classical bits that are either 0 or 1, can be in a state of 0, 1, or both simultaneously.

The magic begins when these qubits are manipulated, putting them into superposition and entanglement states. Through entanglement, the state of one qubit becomes linked with the state of another, no matter how far apart they are. This means a change in one qubit instantaneously affects its entangled partners, allowing quantum computers to process computations in a fundamentally new way.

When can I have a quantum computer at home?

Owning a personal quantum computer might sound like the ultimate tech dream, but in reality, these devices are unlikely to become household items. Quantum computing technologies utilise highly specialized hardware and environments, far beyond what is practical for home use.

Quantum computers are designed for tackling specialised, complex problems—like simulating molecular structures for drug discovery or optimizing large systems—that classical computers struggle with.

Rather than replacing your home PC, quantum computing will more likely be available through cloud services, allowing users to leverage this power for specific, high-level tasks without the need to physically house the technology. This model of remote access to quantum computing resources will enable both businesses and researchers to tap into quantum capabilities for targeted applications, without the direct challenges of maintenance and operation.

What are the current challenges in quantum computing?

Despite its potential, quantum computing faces significant hurdles. One of the main challenges is maintaining qubit stability, as they are highly susceptible to interference from their surroundings. This requires sophisticated error correction techniques and special operating environments to preserve quantum states.

Additionally, developing algorithms that can fully harness the power of quantum computing is an ongoing area of research. As the field is still in its infancy, there are also substantial hardware and infrastructure challenges to overcome before quantum computing can be widely adopted.

What quantum phenomena are utilised in quantum computing?

Quantum computing leverages several key phenomena from quantum mechanics, including superposition and entanglement. Superposition allows qubits to exist in multiple states at once, not just as 0 or 1 but in any combination of these states, enabling quantum computers to process a multitude of possibilities simultaneously.

Entanglement is a strong correlation that exists between qubits, meaning the state of one entangled qubit can instantly influence others, no matter the distance separating them.