Breakthrough: Quantum Computer Precisely Simulates a Molecule

Breakthrough: Quantum Computer Precisely Simulates a Molecule

The interplay of atoms and molecules is responsible for all matter that surrounds us in the world. Quantum mechanics is a  theory in physics which describes nature at the smallest scales of energy levels of atoms and subatomic particles. (Classical physics, the physics existing before quantum mechanics, describes nature at ordinary (macroscopic) scale.)

Physicists unequivocally  state Nature is Quantum. So, if you want to simulate nature, you need a quantum computer. You must be able to describe nature at its smallest scale.

In a recent breakthrough, IBM has simulated the electronic structure of  small molecule made of three atoms using a seven-qubit quantum computer. It precisely designed the molecule beryllium hydride (BeH2) – the largest one simulated to date.

Classical computers can’t model molecules. Quantum computers can because instead of  using digital bits representing 1s and 0s, they use “qubits” that are themselves quantum systems. (Qubits are the basic unit of quantum information.)

Scientists know the future for quantum computers is incredibly important for chemistry. The understanding of molecules in exact detail will allow chemists to design more effective drugs and better materials for generating and distributing energy.  Chemists will be able to identify new proteins for more effective drugs, electrolytes for better batteries and compounds that could turn sunlight directly into a liquid fuel and much more efficient solar cells.

The University of Toronto’s business school recently provided a competition forum for quantum startups. One entrepreneurial team hoped to use quantum computers to model the financial markets. Another planned to have them design new proteins. Yet another wanted to build more advanced AI systems. Remarkably, each team proposed a business built on a technology so revolutionary that it barely exists.