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Gas analysis plays an important role in a wide variety of industries and sciences today. There are numerous methods of analyzing gases; different types of gas that are present in the samples, their electromagnetic features or their molecular composition. The field of gas analysis relies heavily on computer sensing and modeling, and as such will benefit immensely from the exponentially more powerful computer processors that quantum computing will bring in the near future.
Gas Analysis Applications
Applications in medicine include blood gas analysis, which measures arterial gases such as carbon and oxygen and is vital for diagnosing and treating patients with respiratory illnesses and other critical illnesses. Breath gas analysis, which is used to diagnose lung cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other diseases as well as to perform blood alcohol tests.
In industry, gas analysis techniques are used to identify and study the reactions of new chemical compounds, monitor emissions in waste incinerators and power plants, and monitor the correct operation of rotary kilns in cement plants.
Other research applications of gas analysis are in astronomy, where scientists are able to better understand the composition of the stars, planets and other celestial bodies; in geology, where the earth’s inner materials can be studied; and crucially in environmental science, where levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and locally in human population centers, can be monitored and reported on.
These applications rely on a wide variety of gas analyzers that have been developed in the last century. These sensors employ a variety of electromagnetic, optic, and mass spectroscopic techniques to detect and measure the different compounds in air samples. In the modern-day, these sensors are connected to computers which can more accurately calculate and output the data gathered, and even automate critical safety processes.
Applications of Quantum Computers in Gas Analysis
All of the computing functions in gas analysis can be progressed exponentially once quantum supremacy – the theoretical state in which a quantum computer can perform any task better than any classical electronic computer – is reached, and many believe this state is only a few years away.
Metrology and spectroscopy will both benefit from quantum computers’ use in gas analysis, by allowing researchers to more accurately define the molecular and electromagnetic features of natural and synthetic gases.
Quantum computers can make entire industrial processes safer when applied to gas analysis. This is because they can manage large systems of connected sensors through a massive Internet of Things (IoT), and automate industrial processes to ensure toxic gas emissions remain at safe levels for workers and nearby residents.
This ability of quantum computers to manage massive systems of connected devices in the IoT will also have public safety applications. All kinds of toxic gases can be monitored in every home and workplace, and automatic systems controlled by a central quantum computer can alert humans to their presence or even emit diffusing gases to keep people safe.
For medicine, the greater computing speed that quantum computers will bring will lead to rapid advances in artificial intelligence (AI). This will lead to computers linked to gas analyzers continually learning about the human body and therefore providing more accurate and timely diagnoses of life-threatening illnesses.
Finally, and crucially, environmental science will benefit from the use of quantum computers in gas analysis, which will enable a much more thorough and accurate calculation of carbon dioxide levels in the planet’s atmosphere as a whole, and in particular in specific locations such as human population centers. Quantum computers will uniquely be able to monitor and model the entire planetary atmospheric system, giving policy-makers and environmentalists the necessary data to drive forward human behavior changes which will be needed to avoid climate disasters as a result of human carbon emissions.