While supercomputers are critical to researchers today, even they can't provide the massive computing power needed to map out the molecular structures of viruses to find cures.
When it comes to finding a vaccine that can halt and eradicate the deadly COVID-19 virus, today's supercomputers can only do so much. While supercomputers can do amazing things, they are not complex enough to find answers to nature's deepest and most complicated secrets, such as quickly and carefully mapping out the molecular structures of viruses so they can be defeated with modern medicines and treatments.
But an answer awaits perhaps five to 10 years away in the form of quantum computers, which are exponentially more powerful than traditional classic computers, according to computer scientists and other researchers.
SEE:Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs(TechRepublic Premium)
Recently a public-private partnership was formed to create a COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, which is working to harness the power of high-performance computing resources to massively increase the speed and capacity of coronavirus research. And though that work is today welcome in the fight against COVID-19, it won't unlock all the incredibly difficult secrets that are held closely by such viruses.
For most pharmaceutical companies, supercomputers are used regularly to help research, find, and identify new drug treatments, including the identification of virus structures so cures can be found.
Yet supercomputers used today in virus and other pharmaceutical research are still based on classical computing architectures that view all data as a series of binary bits with a value of zero or one. Those machines face the limitations of modern bit-based computer architectures and power that is available today but can't theoretically or physically handle all the tremendously detailed research that is still needed.
That's where the future promise of quantum computing is expected to one day provide the vast computational power that could allow researchers to truly map out molecular structures in real time to solve medical mysteries and help quickly identify new drugs and treatments, said Chirag Dekate, a supercomputing and high-performance computing analyst with Gartner.
"If you're trying to do a quantum realistic simulation of the molecules and interactions of a virus, that is where classical computing starts falling short," Dekate said. "In classical computing, what you are able to simulate is only a fraction of what you can do with quantum computing."
The problem, though, is that true quantum computing capabilities are probably at least five to 10 years away from actual use, Dekate said.
"When two molecules or compounds interact, in order to do a quantum computing simulation, you have to be able to simulate the electrostatic forces of the interaction at the atomic level between those things," Dekate said. "This is where the computational complexity increases exponentially," requiring the power of quantum computing over traditional classical computing architecture.
SEE:Coronavirus: What business pros need to know(TechRepublic)
Quantum computers are based on qubits rather than bits, which are far more complex and allow information to be stored in new ways, giving them added dimensions of computing power. But that intense power requires many more technical requirements to make it possible, and much work is still to be done to enable the technology.
Dr. Itamar Sivan, a physicist and the founder and CEO of Quantum Machines, a quantum computing technology company, said the promise of quantum computing will someday help during times of crisis, such as today's coronavirus pandemic. Such machines are expected to be able to solve incredibly complex scientific problems in minutes in the future, compared with many years by even the most powerful supercomputers of 2020.
"Quantum computing is not a new field--it is already decades old," Sivan said. "In academia it is being investigated, and in the last five years in industry as well. The interest in quantum computing stems from a promise of immense computational power that we will never be able to achieve with classical computation."
SEE:Quantum computing: When to expect the next major leap(TechRepublic)
For researchers, quantum machines will provide power that will transform medical research and a wide range of other fields, he said. "If you would want to have an exact simulation of a molecule such as penicillin, you would never be able to do it with any classical computer because it is too complex. But quantum computers with hundreds of logical qubits will be able to do this task."
Just how much more powerful is a quantum computer compared with a classical computer?
"In order to explain the information in a quantum computer with 300 qubits you would need a classical processor which is built from more bits than there are atoms are in the universe," Sivan said. "It's one of the toughest moonshots that we face as a society, but if we can do it it's going to change the whole world."
Sivan agreed that such machines are easily a decade away before they would be able to perform the quantum simulations that are needed for virus research breakthroughs.
SEE:Quantum computing: Myths v. Realities(TechRepublic)
"For some problems, it's not about just running an algorithm faster, it's about making the impossible possible," he said. "This is why in drug discovery today, the majority of the process is done with the molecules themselves in test tubes and culture dishes, because you can't simulate them and look at their reactions and behavior using classic computers."
The challenges of achieving usable quantum computing are huge, including the extremely delicate state of quantum data when it is used. In operation, quantum data is rapidly lost in experiments being done over the last few years, preventing stable use of the machines.
"There are immense challenges all over the stack to get to the Holy Grail of quantum computing," Sivan said. "Once we solve the problem of loss of information, we will be fine."
The coronavirus has infected almost 2 million people and killed 121,000 around the world so far. While many patients with COVID-19 have mild symptoms and don't require hospitalization, with the incredibly wide scale of the pandemic, even at a 5% hospitalization rate large numbers of patients have been requiring emergency care in hospitals and other medical facilities that are struggling to keep up.
Be in the know about smart cities, AI, Internet of Things, VR, AR, robotics, drones, autonomous driving, and more of the coolest tech innovations. Delivered Wednesdays and Fridays
Image: PhonlamaiPhoto, Getty Images/iStockphoto
- What is Quantum Computing, and How does it Help Us? - Analytics Insight - October 13th, 2020
- QCE20: Here's what you can expect from Intel's new quantum computing research this week - Neowin - October 13th, 2020
- Canadian quantum computing firms partner to spread the technology - IT World Canada - October 13th, 2020
- Ten-year Forecasts for Quantum Networking Opportunities and Deployments Over the Coming Decade - WFMZ Allentown - October 13th, 2020
- Berkeley Lab Technologies Honored With 7 R&D 100 Awards - Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory - October 5th, 2020
- IBM Partners With HBCUs to Diversify Quantum Computing Workforce - Diverse: Issues in Higher Education - September 25th, 2020
- IBM, Alphabet and well-funded startups in the race for quantum supremacy - IT Brief Australia - September 25th, 2020
- How This Bangalore Based Startup Is Driving Innovation With Quantum Technology-Based Products - Analytics India Magazine - September 25th, 2020
- New faculty add to Yale's strength in applied mathematics - Yale News - September 25th, 2020
- NU receives $115 million federal grant to research and develop beyond state-of-the-art quantum computer - Daily Northwestern - September 24th, 2020
- IBM Just Committed to Having a Functioning 1,000 Qubit Quantum Computer by 2023 - ScienceAlert - September 24th, 2020
- IBM plans to build a 1121 qubit system. What does this technology mean? - The Hindu - September 24th, 2020
- Extending the life of the qubit | Temple Now - Temple University News - September 24th, 2020
- OSTP, NSF, DoE, and IBM make major push to strengthen research in AI and quantum - BlackEngineer.com - September 24th, 2020
- Heres why quantum computing is a cat among the pigeons - BusinessLine - September 12th, 2020
- The Hyperion-insideHPC Interviews: ORNL Distinguished Scientist Travis Humble on Coupling Classical and Quantum Computing - insideHPC - September 12th, 2020
- Oxford Instruments Partners With The 10 Million Consortium, To Launch The First Commercial Quantum Computer In UK - AZoNano - September 10th, 2020
- Combinations of new technologies will upend finance - The Australian Financial Review - September 10th, 2020
- Quantum Computing Market Analysis by Growth, segmentation, performance, Competitive Strategies and Forecast to 2026 - Galus Australis - September 10th, 2020
- The Quantum Dream: Are We There Yet? - Toolbox - September 7th, 2020
- 17 extremely useful productivity tips from this years 40 Under 40 - Yahoo Finance UK - September 7th, 2020
- How Amazon Quietly Powers The Internet - Forbes - September 7th, 2020
- Study Expands Types of Physics, Engineering Problems That Can Be Solved by Quantum Computers - HPCwire - September 4th, 2020
- New evidence that the quantum world is even stranger than we thought - Purdue News Service - September 4th, 2020
- How Andersen Cheng plans to defend against the quantum computer - The Independent - September 4th, 2020
- Quantum computer to be hosted in Abingdon - ClickLancashire - September 4th, 2020
- Assistant director of NSFs Computer and Information Science and Engineering to give virtual talk Sept. 11 - Vanderbilt University News - September 4th, 2020
- Fermilab to lead $115 million National Quantum Information Science Research Center to build revolutionary quantum computer with Rigetti Computing,... - August 29th, 2020
- I confess, I'm scared of the next generation of supercomputers - TechRadar - August 29th, 2020
- Q-NEXT collaboration awarded National Quantum Initiative funding - University of Wisconsin-Madison - August 29th, 2020
- UArizona Scientists to Build What Einstein Wrote off as Science Fiction - UANews - August 29th, 2020
- Quantum leap? US plans for unhackable internet may not fructify within a decade, but India is far behind - The Financial Express - August 4th, 2020
- Google distinguished scientist Hartmut Neven is one of Fast Company's - Fast Company - August 4th, 2020
- Quantum physicists say time travelers don't have to worry about the butterfly effect - The Next Web - August 2nd, 2020
- Week in review: BootHole, RCEs in industrial VPNs, the cybersecurity profession crisis - Help Net Security - August 2nd, 2020
- New UC-led institute awarded $25M to explore potential of quantum computing and train a future workforce - University of California - July 31st, 2020
- The future of encryption: Getting ready for the quantum computer attack - TechRepublic - July 31st, 2020
- IBM and University of Tokyo team up for Quantum Innovation Initiative Consortium - SmartPlanet.com - July 31st, 2020
- 'Butterfly effect' is wrong and reality can 'heal itself', quantum scientists find in time travel experiment - The Independent - July 31st, 2020
- Research: the butterfly effect does not exist in the quantum model - FREE NEWS - July 31st, 2020
- Solving problems by working together: Could quantum computing hold the key to Covid-19? - ITProPortal - July 2nd, 2020
- Spain Introduces the World's First Quantum Phase Battery - News - All About Circuits - July 2nd, 2020
- Professor tackles one more mystery about quantum mechanics and times flow - GeekWire - July 2nd, 2020
- This Week's Awesome Tech Stories From Around the Web (Through June 27) - Singularity Hub - June 29th, 2020
- Kudos: Read about faculty, staff and student awards, appointments and achievements - Vanderbilt University News - June 29th, 2020
- This Is the First Universal Language for Quantum Computers - Popular Mechanics - June 21st, 2020
- Universal Quantum raises $4.5 million to build a large-scale quantum computer - VentureBeat - June 17th, 2020
- Ethereum (ETH) Might Not have Quantum Resistance on its Roadmap, the QRL Team Reveals - Crowdfund Insider - June 17th, 2020
- Craig Knoblock Named Michael Keston Executive Director of the USC Information Sciences Institute - USC Viterbi School of Engineering - June 17th, 2020
- European quantum computing startup takes its funding to 32M with fresh raise - TechCrunch - June 11th, 2020
- SKT to expand use of new quantum-powered security solutions - The Korea Herald - June 11th, 2020
- Archer looks to commercialisation future with graphene-based biosensor tech - ZDNet - June 11th, 2020
- Dear NASA, please put a particle collider on the Moon - The Next Web - June 11th, 2020
- Top 10 emerging technologies of 2020: Winners and losers - TechRepublic - June 11th, 2020
- When Will Quantum Computing Come to Mainstream? - Analytics Insight - June 8th, 2020
- University announces 2020 winners of Quantrell and Graduate Teaching Awards - UChicago News - June 8th, 2020
- Physicists Found a Way to Save Schrdingers Cat - Dual Dove - June 8th, 2020
- Physicists hunt for room-temperature superconductors that could revolutionize the world's energy system - The Conversation US - June 3rd, 2020
- Covid 19 Pandemic: Quantum Computing Technologies Market 2020, Share, Growth, Trends And Forecast To 2025 - 3rd Watch News - May 24th, 2020
- Molecular dynamics used to simulate 100 million atoms | Opinion - Chemistry World - May 23rd, 2020
- Highest-performing quantum simulator IN THE WORLD delivered to Japan - TechGeek - May 18th, 2020
- Light, fantastic: the path ahead for faster, smaller computer processors - News - The University of Sydney - May 18th, 2020
- Wiring the quantum computer of the future - Space Daily - April 29th, 2020
- Technologies That You Can Explore Other Than Data Science During Lockdown - Analytics India Magazine - April 29th, 2020
- Will Quantum Computing Really Change The World? Facts And Myths - Analytics India Magazine - April 23rd, 2020
- Google's top quantum computing brain may or may not have quit - Fudzilla - April 23rd, 2020
- On the Heels of a Light Beam - Scientific American - April 23rd, 2020
- Advanced Encryption Standard (AES): What It Is and How It Works - Hashed Out by The SSL Store - Hashed Out by The SSL Store - April 23rd, 2020
- Google's Head of Quantum Computing Hardware Resigns - WIRED - April 21st, 2020
- The future of quantum computing in the cloud - TechTarget - April 21st, 2020
- Quantum computer chips demonstrated at the highest temperatures ever - New Scientist News - April 17th, 2020
- Alex Garland on 'Devs,' free will and quantum computing - Engadget - April 14th, 2020
- RAND report finds that, like fusion power and Half Life 3, quantum computing is still 15 years away - The Register - April 12th, 2020
- Quantum computing: When to expect the next major leap - TechRepublic - April 12th, 2020
- Cambridge Quantum Computing Performs the World's First Quantum Natural Language Processing Experiment - Quantaneo, the Quantum Computing Source - April 12th, 2020
- The Well-matched Combo of Quantum Computing and Machine Learning - Analytics Insight - March 23rd, 2020
- Picking up the quantum technology baton - The Hindu - March 23rd, 2020
- Research by University of Chicago PhD Student and EPiQC Wins IBM Q Best Paper - HPCwire - March 23rd, 2020
- Honeywell Achieves Breakthrough That Will Enable The Worlds Most Powerful Quantum Computer #47655 - New Kerala - March 23rd, 2020
- Is time broken? Physicists filmed a quantum measurement but the 'moment' was blurry - The Next Web - March 5th, 2020