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posted by Fnord666 on Monday March 20, @01:14PM   Printer-friendly
from the molecular-simulations dept.

[...] the first quantum computer to start paying its way with useful work in the real world looks likely to do so by helping chemists trying to do things like improve batteries or electronics. So far, simulating molecules and reactions is the use case for early, small quantum computers sketched out in most detail by researchers developing the new kind of algorithms needed for such machines.

Quantum computers, which represent data using quantum-mechanical effects apparent at tiny scales, should be able to perform computations impossible for any conventional computer. Recent advances on hardware that might be used to build them has led to a flurry of investment from companies including Microsoft, Intel, Google, and IBM (see "10 Breakthrough Technologies 2017: Practical Quantum Computers").

"From the point of view of what is theoretically proven, chemistry is ahead," says Scott Crowder, chief technology officer for the IBM division that today sells hardware including supercomputers and hopes to add cloud-hosted quantum computers to its product line-up in the next few years. "We have more confidence in the smaller systems for chemistry."

Researchers have long used simulations of molecules and chemical reactions to aid research into things like new materials, drugs, or industrial catalysts. The tactic can reduce time spent on physical experiments and scientific dead ends, and it accounts for a significant proportion of the workload of the world's supercomputers.

Nah, the first use of quantum computers ought to be to really bring clean coal to market.


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  • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Monday March 20, @02:46PM

    by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 20, @02:46PM (#481512)

    Nah, the first use of quantum computers ought to be to really bring clean coal to market.

    You mean... quantum computers using carbon atoms as active medium?

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by stormwyrm on Monday March 20, @03:14PM

    by stormwyrm (717) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 20, @03:14PM (#481526) Journal

    Richard Feynman [berkeley.edu] is generally recognised as one of the first people to conceptualise a quantum computer. From a talk he gave back in 1982:

    And I’m not happy with all the analyses that go with just the classical theory, because nature isn’t classical, dammit, and if you want to make a simulation of nature, you’d better make it quantum mechanical, and by golly it’s a wonderful problem, because it doesn’t look so easy.

    Chemistry at the level of molecular dynamics is essentially the physics of quantum-mechanical systems, and for complex enough molecules simulations on classical computers are very quickly going to become intractable because all known classical algorithms for doing so take exponential time. A small quantum computer without enough qubits to do Shor’s algorithm to factor any numbers large enough to be of cryptographic interest would nevertheless be very useful for quantum-mechanical simulations of this sort.

    --
    The right to believe whatever you want does not mean that whatever you want to believe is right.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 20, @06:48PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 20, @06:48PM (#481672)

    They're just failed physicists.

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