More investment needed in quantum computing

The United States needs to invest more in quantum computing according to White House assistant director of cybersecurity Tim Polk. While the federal government has been funding quantum research for decades—quantum refers to a computing paradigm that relies on particles known as qubits instead of the traditional ones and zeros in classical computing—its global leadership position is “certainly under siege.

“There are significant quantum programs in Canada, in the U.K., in the Netherlands, the [European Union], China,” Polk said at an event hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. “They don’t have the depth, the foundation, that the U.S. has from its long, long interest in quantum. But those programs are definitely going to pose a challenge to us and that’s really important to us … we believe [quantum] will be the foundation for so much economic development as well.”

Quantum computing could lead to advances in physics and material science, Polk explained. In time, he said, quantum algorithms could help solve “long-standing challenges with low-temperature nitrogen fixation and actually give us back 10 percent of the world’s natural gas supply that we currently spend to make fertilizer.”

But the nation’s quantum physicists often complain they’re not able to get computer scientists to really pursue quantum computing, often because they don’t have access to today’s simulators, which may be prohibitively expensive to access, Polk said.

To really advance quantum, “we’re going to need to be able to build small quantum devices that are off the shelf, commercially available, and that we can actually use not in the lab but actually in real life,” he said.