To realise the vision of building a self-reliant technology base, the National Quantum Mission could be a game changer. However, like any other technology, quantum technology will also need material innovation – R&D in “Quantum Materials.”
About the National Quantum Mission (NQM) –
- India is the sixth country to have a dedicated quantum mission after the US, Austria, Finland, France, and China.
- NQM will fund R&D in quantum computing technology and associated applications and will have defined milestones that are expected to be achieved over the course of eight years (2023-24 to 2030-31).
- Four thematic hubs/T-Hubs with a focus on quantum computing, communication, sensing and metrology, and materials and devices will be established in India’s leading academic and national R&D institutes.
Objectives of the Mission –
- Create intermediate-scale quantum computers with 50-1000 qubits in the next eight years.
- Establish satellite-based secure quantum communications between ground stations within India, as well as with other countries, covering a range of 2000 km.
- It will look to provide inter-city quantum key distribution over 2000 km, multi-node quantum network with quantum memories.
- It will help to advance atomic technology with highly sensitive magnetometers and precision atomic clocks that serve communication, navigation, and timing.
- It will aid in designing and synthesising quantum materials, including superconductors, novel semiconductor structures, and topological materials for the fabrication of quantum devices.
What are Quantum Materials?
- The concept of “quantum materials” was originally introduced to identify some of the exotic quantum systems, including unconventional superconductors, heavy fermion systems, and multi-functional oxides.
- 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.
- It is now a powerful unifying concept across diverse fields of science and engineering.
What entails R&D in Quantum Materials?
- R&D in quantum materials encompasses traditional semiconductors, superconductors, and non-linear optical crystals directly relevant to computing, communication ,and sensing.
- The research encompasses materials built on complex interaction between charge and atoms.
- Also, materials that area creation of the more “hidden” properties of quantum physics, such as quantum entanglement – the ability of a particle to influence the behaviour of another with whom it had an earlier ‘interaction’, even when they are separated by arbitrarily great distances.
- Research will be required to develop low-loss materials for super conducting quantum electronics that preserve quantum information over a long period.
- The impact of much of the research cuts across multiple verticals of quantum technologies, and this necessitates dedicated and centralised material/device infrastructures
Benefits of investing in Quantum Materials –
- Streamline requirements for Quantum Technology —
- This will allow streamlining the material and device requirements for the core quantum technology.
- The quantum materials and devices component of the National Quantum Mission will bring innovation in the field under a common umbrella.
- Synergising the scattered workforce and Minimising Redundancy —
- Synergising the diverse and geographically distributed material workforce in India to achieve mission deliverables, and
- And it will ensure efficient resource utilisation as well as minimising redundancy and duplication.
- Home Grown R&D Programme and Multi-Disciplinary Approach — It will have a project-driven multi-disciplinary approach and develop strategies as well as an in-house R&D programme to
- Less Dependency on Imports — Materials and devices-based innovation will create new businesses from manufacturing supporting equipment which India currently imports to high-end specialised devices, such as semiconductor-based single-photon detectors, at the bulk scale.
- Can generate a cadre of highly skilled workforce — As India is set to become the world’s third-largest economy by 2027, a strongly networked material infrastructure in the country will be crucial and the process can generate a cadre of highly skilled workforce.
- Cater to not just quantum but also other scientific mega projects — Ranging from the semiconductor mission to neutrino observatory and gravitational wave detection.
Requirements to enable the investment –
Leveraging the evolving scientific infrastructure in the country and aligning with some of the key national mandates. For example, 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 between 2011 and 2019.
Challenges associated with the investment –
- Less focus on Manufacturing —
- Currently nearly 12 per cent start-ups are deep tech-related. This represents an early 35 times increase between 2016 and2019.
- However less than 3 per cent of these involve manufacturing materials.
- Lack of Infrastructure — India lacks enough infrastructure that can support the entire chain of operation from working out the proof-of-principle to developing working prototypes.
- Sub-critical size of R&D community —
- The sub-critical size of the country’s R&D community.
- In 2018, India had 253 full-time equivalent researchers per million of its population, about 11 percent of the researcher density of Italy.
- Scattered Workforce — The workforce is distributed across the country.
What should be government’s strategy?
- Integration of Scattered Workforce — Strategies will be required to integrate the initiatives of the demographically scattered human resources.
- Focus on extensive Goal-Oriented Research —
- 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.
- Develop 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.
- Timely investment — For India to emerge a global leader in the field the government should focus on timely investment and efficient management.
Material domains in all aspects of quantum technology; computing, communications, and sensing are still developing. A well-balanced focus on R&D, timely investment and efficient management with fundamental and futuristic objectives will bring assured outcomes for India.
Source – The Indian Express
QUESTION – How can the government of India promote R&D in quantum materials to achieve the objectives of the National Quantum Mission?