The promise in India’s National Quantum Mission

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Prelims: Current events of national importance, quantum, National Quantum Mission, quantum computing, Nano Mission, National Supercomputing Mission etc

Mains GS Paper II and III: Development process and the development industry-the role of NGOs,SHGs etc

 

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Union Cabinet approved the National Quantum Mission (NQM), putting India among the top six leading nations involved in the research and development in quantum technologies.

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

Quantum technology:

  • It is a field of science and engineering that deals with the principles of quantum mechanics, which is the study of the behavior of matter and energy at the smallest scale.
  • Quantum mechanics is the branch of physics that describes the behavior of matter and energy at the atomic and subatomic level.

 

National Quantum Mission (NQM):

  • NQM, planned during 2023 – 2031, is worth 6,003 crore(approx).
  • It will mainly work towards strengthening India’s research and development in the quantum arena alongside indigenously building quantum-based (physical qubit) computers.
    • They are far more powerful to perform the most complex problems in a highly secure manner.
  • It could be a game changer in multiple sectors, from defense, energy, and environment to healthcare and civil applications.

 

Advantages:

  • Skilled workforce: The process 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 quantum technologies along with other major scientific megaprojects like:
    • semiconductor mission
    • neutrino observatory
    • gravitational wave detection.
  • The infrastructure will play a key role in building self-reliance in energy and electronics industries.

 

Quantum materials:

  • Quantum materials are a class of matter or systems that exploit unique properties of quantum physics.
  • They accomplish tasks that classical technology is incapable of.
  • The concept of “quantum materials” was originally introduced to identify some of the exotic quantum systems, including:
    • unconventional superconductors
    • heavy-fermion systems
    • multifunctional oxides.
  • It has morphed into a powerful unifying concept across diverse fields of science and engineering, including:
    • solid state physics
    • cold atoms (atoms cooled to below absolute zero whereby their quantum mechanical properties are unveiled)
    • materials science
    • quantum computing.
  • R&D in quantum materials today embraces traditional semiconductors, superconductors, and non-linear optical crystals directly relevant to computing, communication, and sensing.
  • It encompasses materials built on complex interaction between charge and atoms.
    • The products have uniqueness in the geometric phase of the quantum wave functions
    • The materials are a creation of the more “hidden” properties of quantum physics, such as quantum entanglement.

 

Quantum devices:

  • Research on new architectures to incorporate quantum materials into functional units has progressed simultaneously, leading to the concept of “quantum devices”.
  • New paradigms of ultrafast transistors and opto-electronics components as well as non-volatile memory and sensing devices are becoming enabling vehicles for quantum applications.

 

Need for a Quantum Mission:

  • A strong emphasis on quantum materials and devices is an integral component of any quantum technology mission.
  • Upstream in the innovation pipeline, materials’ experts play important roles in developing new or upgrading current methods for precision synthesis, scalable yield, and stable performance.
  • 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.
  • It will allow streamlining the material and device requirements for the core quantum technology verticals of the mission:
    • building infrastructure for new materials and devices with in-house R&D
    • synergising the diverse and geographically distributed material workforce in India to achieve mission deliverables
    • ensuring efficient resource utilization as well as minimizing redundancy and duplication.
  • The quantum materials and devices component of the National Quantum Mission will bring innovation in the field under a common umbrella.
  • It will have a project-driven multi-disciplinary approach and develop strategies as well as an in-house R&D programme to propel quantum technology in India beyond the state-of-the-art through:
    • fundamental discoveries
    • imaginative engineering
    • entrepreneurial initiatives.

 

How to achieve the targets?

  • It 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:
      • It has enabled a fivefold increase in research publications in this area between 2011 and 2019.
    • Several institutions are endowed with expertise and facilities, including excellent infrastructure for semiconductors. They can be utilized.
    • There is a strong community of material modeling and computing expertise, supported by the National Supercomputing Mission and other local computing facilities.
    • Material innovation in the quantum domain will invigorate the manufacturing-based entrepreneurial ecosystem.
      • Such activities could benefit from the government’s support through the Startup India initiative and other schemes.

 

Challenges:

  • Currently nearly 12 percent startups are deep tech-related
    • It represents a nearly 35 times increase between 2016 and 2019.
    • However less than 3 percent of these involve manufacturing and/or materials.
  • Materials and devices-based innovation will create new businesses from manufacturing supporting equipment.
    • India currently imports — to high-end specialized devices, such as semiconductor-based single-photon detectors, at the bulk scale.
  • We do not have enough infrastructure that can support the entire chain of operation from working out the proof-of-principle to developing working prototypes.
  • The sub-critical size of the country’s R&D community is a matter of equal concern.
    • In 2018, India had 253 full-time equivalent researchers per million of its population.
    • About 11 percent of the researcher density of Italy.
  • The workforce is distributed across the country, and strategies will be required to integrate the initiatives of the demographically scattered human resources.

 

 

Way Forward

  • The National Quantum mission will require a significant component of materials research to be carried out in goal-oriented multi-institutional consortia.
  • It 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.
  • The material/device challenge in quantum technologies is unique because it often demands manipulation of the quantum state of an electron or atom with as much control as those in bulk three-dimensional systems that contain billions of atoms.
  • 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.
    • This will help in beneficial outcomes to be immediately recognised, systematically characterized, engineered, and put to use.
  • Material domains in all aspects of quantum technology — computing, communications, and sensing — are still developing.
    • There is a chance that through timely investment and efficient management
    • India can emerge as a global leader in the field.

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

How is the S-400 air defense system technically superior to any other system presently available in the world ?(UPSC 2021) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)

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