What impact will quantum information science and technology make?
Throughout history, society has been continually transformed by new technology. Today, scientists and engineers are making quantum devices a reality. These are driving a new technological revolution—welcome to the Quantum Age. Quantum technologies will be the innovation engine of the 21st century. Finding the ultimate potential of these devices is bound only by our imagination and its impact will be much bigger than we can ever anticipate. The next generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians will be the people who truly unleash the power of the quantum world!
Current and future quantum applications
Researchers at the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) are leading the way when it comes to advancing the theoretical and experimental possiblities of quantum information science, impacting areas including:
In the fight against cancer, chemo drugs are used to kill cancer cells, but the drugs can also affect normal, healthy cells as they travel throughout the body. IQC researchers developed a revolutionary new sensor that outperforms existing technology because it detects light at the level of a single photon. When applied in cancer treatment, this enhanced ability means a health practitioner could monitor the dose being given. This ensures enough is administered to kill the cancer cells, but not too much that it also kills healthy cells. This new sensor can also be used in non-invasive imaging of the eye and to diagnose potentially blinding diseases.
Macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of blindness in people over the age of 50 but can be treated if it’s caught early enough. However, early diagnosis is extremely difficult because there are often no symptoms. IQC researchers have developed a structured light microscope which will enable optometrists to image and track the physiology of the eyes and detect macular degeneration potentially before there are symptoms.
The use of quantum simulation in drug development is a longer-term, future application with strong interest from the pharmaceutical industry. Quantum simulation can also help us understand diseases that involve misfolded proteins like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases. Further understanding of these conditions can help with better treatment.
In the Arctic, space weather, such as geomagnetic storms and solar flares, interfere with radar operation and make the effective identification of objects more challenging. IQC researchers are developing a new technology in partnership with Department of National Defence that promises to help radar operators cut through heavy background noise and isolate objects — including stealth aircraft and missiles— with unparalleled accuracy.
Ultra-secure information sharing
Digital communication methods, like the Internet, are used for everything from money transfers to sharing videos of cats, but the reality is they are not the most secure. IQC partnered with Canadian Space Agency and manufacturer Honeywell to change this by developing a satellite capable of a ultra-secure information sharing. This satellite solution could be used by telecom companies, governments, or financial corporations like banks that are interested in secure communications.
Counterfeit money causes financial damage to businesses and individuals and harms economies. Sophisticated counterfeiters are even learning to replicate polymer currency, thought to be one of the most difficult to replicate. IQC researchers have developed a quantum 2D structure invisible to the naked eye that can only be detected using a light of the correct wavelength and polarization direction. Because the structure is less than a micrometer thick, it can be printed directly on government documents-such as banknotes-and act as a hidden and difficult to replicate security feature. The researchers have been able to create the product so that it can be mass produced – which means it’s a cost effective quantum technology that can be adopted for a wide range of applications.
Answering complex questions
The goal of quantum computers is to be able to ask questions that can’t be answered by classical computers. But first, the quantum computers need to function. Researchers at IQC are focused on developing robust and viable quantum computers by developing simulation tools that can comprehend and answer complex questions in a reasonable amount of time. By building the code and the hardware needed for vibrant quantum computers, researchers will be able to finally answer complex questions. These findings will lead to developments in a wide range of fields such as chemistry, biology, material science and medicine, and may lead to dynamic inventions that will range from better performing airplanes to stronger and healthier pharmaceuticals which will all be built from a quantum level.
Software for the quantum age
Any quantum computer of the future may require very sophisticated error correction strategies, software and algorithms to suppress quantum errors that spoil the magic of quantum computation. Built on world-leading research developed at IQC, Quantum Benchmark was launched by IQC researchers to bring to market a product that has become the standard for characterizing and improving the performance of quantum computers.
Keeping our water clean
Kevin Musselman, assistant professor in the Faculty of Engineering, is leading a project to develop next-generation chemical sensors. He aims to create new functionalized quantum dots of 2D materials for the sensing of four highly-toxic heavy metal pollutants: arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury.
“The zero-dimensional nature of quantum dots leads to unique properties that make them very promising for fluorescence-based chemical sensing. These properties include strong absorption, strong fluorescence, solubility, and stability,” said Musselman. His proposed multimodal sensing platform can be used in the field, overcoming a barrier of existing techniques that are currently not suitable for on-site analysis of water contamination.
The project is supported by the Quantum Quest Seed Fund (QQSF) awarded by Transformative Quantum Technologies (TQT). The QQSF encourages new ideas and uncovers new opportunities from diverse fields outside the scope of researchers working day-to-day with quantum devices, and supports TQT’s mission to accelerate the development and deployment of impactful quantum devices.