Quantum information technology (QIT) holds the potential to accelerate computation to the point where numerous previously unsolved issues can be resolved. Ireland, as a technologically innovative country, has taken the initiative to contribute to the growth of quantum tech globally while building a sustainable ecosystem within the country.
The capacity to build and control systems, such as electrons, photons, or single atoms, which can only be described precisely using quantum mechanics, has advanced significantly over the past few decades. The seemingly strange laws of the quantum world are now opening up amazing new possibilities for technological advancements. This has led to an avalanche of activities and start-ups involving quantum computers that are rapidly growing. Just as many countries take initiatives to grow their quantum ecosystem to better serve this growing technological landscape, Ireland has also taken necessary steps to contribute towards this transformation.
Digital vs Quantum
The goal of replacing our current semiconductor-based systems with completely new and significantly more powerful information technology based on the full potential of quantum physics is what is driving all of this accelerated innovation.
By breaking a computation into N subsets and then running every partial calculation simultaneously on one of N central processing units (CPUs), calculation speed can be increased on traditional computers. Today, high-speed video processing is built on that foundation. In order to use parallel processing to double the speed, the number of CPUs must be quadrupled. In order to accomplish this, roughly a million billion parallel CPUs must be created in order to enhance the speed of conventional processing by a factor of around 250. -an impossible proposition!
Consider a quantum processing unit (QPU) with 50 qubits. Two hundred fifty different configurations could coexist simultaneously on the QPU if every qubit were entangled with every other qubit. In theory, this would enable 250 calculations to run simultaneously on a single QPU. Additionally, 50 qubit QPUs are not unrealistic. Although it is yet feasible for all qubits to be completely entangled, elementary versions already exist and are functional. Thus, the potential of quantum computing is tremendously alluring, even though it poses a tremendous challenge across academia and industry.
Ireland's history in this endeavor is both incredibly personal and illustrative. The crucial discovery that put quantum physics' seemingly counterintuitive intrinsic non-locality, which is currently at the center of this technological revolution, to the test was made by Irish physicist John Bell.
The next generation of physicists and engineers has the enormous challenge of showing applications where quantum mechanics offers an advantage. Top-tech players and start-up businesses in Ireland are working towards this challenge, building on advancements already evidenced.
Technology based on quantum mechanics is already in use. For example, there are commercial quantum cryptography systems, and Diamond Nitrogen-Vacancy (NV) centers-based magnetic sensors for biomedical applications are at an advanced stage of development. Atomic traps have also been tested to map the nonuniformities in the Earth's gravitational field or, more profitably, find new oil reserves.
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The urgent need for Ireland is to establish a broad ecosystem for quantum science and technology. The education and training of scientists and engineers in quantum physics, quantum devices, quantum software, and quantum computer operations and applications should be expanded and accelerated, starting from the strong foundation of quantum research skills that exists now. Based on already existing, commercially available quantum computing technology, it should be possible to develop this workforce of quantum experts without major roadblocks.
Ireland Joins the Race
Although there has been consistent work in Ireland's quantum information field for more than 25 years, there has recently been a considerable uptick. Almost every Irish higher education institution is home to a well-known group at the front edge of quantum research and technology, driven mostly by grassroots activity and backed by national and European funding.
This has led to a number of significant initiatives, including the founding of research centers at Tyndall National Institute at University College Cork, University College Dublin (UCD), and Trinity College Dublin.
As an example, development over the last 20 years at Tyndall National Institute has been quite remarkable, and quantum technologies have already left the realm of academia and into the real world.
The main goals of the quantum initiative are to fortify the connection with industry in order to foster the development of quantum technologies by converting science into innovation and luring professionals with quantum expertise to Ireland.
All interested parties, including research partners, industry, application end users, the government, and its agencies, must support this effort through coordinated and synergistic national participation.
These initiatives support the overarching objective of educating future quantum scientists and engineers and facilitating crucial knowledge exchange between universities and major industry players.
The top firms currently working on R&D for quantum information technology include IBM, Google, Rigetti, Alice&Bob, and IQM for superconducting qubits; ColdQuanta and AtomComputing for atomic qubits; Honeywell, IonQ, and Alpine for ionic qubits; and Xanadu, PsiQuantum, and Orca for photonic qubits. Equal1 is an Irish company that is also developing quantum technology.
Priorities for the quantum development plan demand quantum technologies be made a focal point of Ireland's innovation plan. Additionally, the Infrastructure should be committed to Quantum Technologies, and substantial investment should be spent on training quantum engineers and scientists.
Strategy for Quantum Information and Technology
To take on the enormous task of creating quantum devices, the Irish quantum community is uniting. EQUITY: Éire Strategy for Quantum Information and Technology has recently received funding from the Irish Research Council and the Shared Island program of the Department of An Taoiseach.
Researchers are able to take on a variety of fascinating challenges, from modeling complicated molecular dynamics to building ultra-precise sensors and beyond, thanks to the symbiotic ties being built across these areas.
Major initiatives on quantum computer architectures, quantum sensing, and creating a secure quantum communications network are among the areas that are now moving forward. This final point is extremely applicable outside of academics in a time when protecting our personal data is more crucial than ever.
Most importantly, EQUITY has given top priority to making sure that the impact of quantum technologies is felt by as many people as possible. Many quantum researchers from all over the Island of Ireland will be encouraged to contribute towards accomplishing this goal.
Regional Spotlight: Quantum Technology in the Netherlands
References and Further Reading
Silicon Republic-Machines. (13 September 2023) Ireland is gearing up for the next generation of quantum technologies. [Online] siliconrepublic.com. Available at: https://www.siliconrepublic.com/machines/quantum-computing-science-physics-ireland-ucd
Davis, J.C. Séamus. (March 2021)Strategy for quantum technology in Ireland. [Online] agendani.com. Available at: https://www.agendani.com/strategy-for-quantum-technology-in-ireland/