September 25, 2022

Quantum Computing and Communications: Status and Prospects

What GAO Uncovered

Quantum information and facts systems aim to use the houses of character at atomic scales to attain tasks that are not achievable with present technologies. These technologies count on qubits, the quantum equivalent of classical computer bits. Researchers are producing qubits from particles, these types of as atoms or particles of gentle, or objects that mimic them, these types of as superconducting circuits. Compared with classical bits, qubits can be intrinsically connected to each other and can be any mixture of and 1 simultaneously. These capabilities empower two perhaps transformational applications—quantum computing and communications. Nevertheless, quantum data can not be copied, is fragile, and can be irreversibly missing, ensuing in errors that are challenging to suitable.

Illustrations of quantum computing components

Some quantum computing and communications technologies are accessible for restricted makes use of, but will probable need substantial development in advance of giving substantial industrial value. For example, some small error-prone quantum desktops are available for minimal applications, and a quantum communications technology identified as quantum crucial distribution can be ordered. In accordance to company officers and stakeholders, further quantum technological know-how advancement may possibly acquire at the very least a decade and price billions, but these kinds of estimates are remarkably unsure. Quantum computing and communications systems will probable establish together simply because of some shared physics ideas, laboratory techniques, and prevalent hardware. 

Quantum computers may possibly have purposes in numerous sectors, but it is not apparent wherever they will have the biggest effects. Quantum communications systems could have makes use of for protected communications, quantum networking, and a foreseeable future quantum web. Some applications—such as distributed quantum computing, which connects numerous quantum personal computers jointly to clear up a problem—require both equally quantum computing and communications systems. Potential disadvantages of quantum engineering include things like price, complexity, vitality use, and the risk of destructive use.

GAO determined four variables that have an affect on quantum technology improvement and use: (1) collaboration, (2) workforce dimension and talent, (3) investment, and (4) the supply chain. The desk underneath describes selections that policymakers—legislative bodies, authorities businesses, criteria-location organizations, sector, and other groups—could consider to help tackle these elements, improve added benefits, or mitigate drawbacks of quantum engineering growth and use.

Plan Alternatives to Enable Address Elements that Impact Quantum Engineering Growth and Use, or to Enhance Benefits or Mitigate Negatives

Coverage choices and potential

implementation approaches

Opportunities Things to consider

Collaboration (report p. 37)

Policymakers could inspire even more collaboration in creating quantum systems, this sort of as collaboration amid:

  • Scientific disciplines
  • Sectors
  • Countries
  • Collaboration among the disciplines could help engineering breakthroughs.
  • Collaboration could aid speed up exploration and growth, as effectively as facilitate technological know-how transfer from laboratories to the private sector, federal companies, and some others.
  • Intercontinental collaboration could convey mutual added benefits to the U.S. and other nations by accelerating scientific discovery and advertising and marketing financial advancement.
  • Intellectual house problems could make quantum technological innovation leaders hesitant to collaborate.
  • Institutional differences could make collaboration challenging.
  • Export controls may well complicate international collaboration, but are also required to regulate nationwide safety hazards.

Workforce (report p. 39)

Policymakers could look at strategies to develop the quantum engineering workforce by, for case in point:

  • Leveraging current applications and developing new types
  • Advertising and marketing position instruction
  • Facilitating suitable employing of an international workforce who are considered not to pose a countrywide protection danger
  • Educational applications could deliver students and personnel with the qualifications and skills needed to work in quantum technologies throughout the non-public sector, public sector, and academia.
  • Schooling personnel from distinct disciplines in quantum systems could improve the offer of quantum talent.
  • Worldwide using the services of could make it possible for U.S. quantum employers to draw in and retain prime expertise from other nations.
  • Attempts to improve the quantum technological innovation labor power might have an impact on the supply of abilities in other technologies fields with superior demand.
  • It might be tricky to adequately establish workforce ideas to accommodate quantum technology requires.
  • Worldwide employing could be hard since of visa demands and export controls, equally in position for national security explanations.

Investment decision (report p. 41)

Policymakers could look at approaches to incentivize or help expenditure in quantum engineering enhancement, these as:

  • Investments focused towards specific effects
  • Continued expenditure in quantum know-how study centers
  • Grand worries to spur options from the community
  • More specific investments could assist progress quantum systems. These could involve investments in bettering entry to quantum personal computers and concentrating on serious-environment programs.
  • Quantum technologies testbed facility investments could guidance engineering adoption, due to the fact testbeds permit scientists to check out new systems and test the functionality of devices.
  • Grand challenges have demonstrated results in offering new capabilities and could be leveraged for quantum systems.
  • It could be hard to fund initiatives with for a longer period-time period undertaking timeframes.
  • A lack of benchmarks or, conversely, developing standards far too early, could have an affect on quantum technology investments. With no criteria, enterprises and individuals may perhaps not be confident that products will do the job as anticipated.
  • Establishing benchmarks as well early may possibly prevent the advancement of substitute technological innovation pathways.

Source Chain (report p. 43)

Policymakers could persuade the growth of a robust, safe source chain for quantum technologies by, for example:

  • Boosting initiatives to recognize gaps in the international provide chain
  • Expanding fabrication abilities for products with an at-hazard provide chain
  • A sturdy supply chain could support accelerate progress and mitigate quantum technological innovation development pitfalls by expanding obtain to needed elements and elements or delivering improved economies of scale.
  • Quantum substance fabrication abilities advancements could be certain a responsible supply of supplies to assistance quantum technological innovation development.
  • Amenities focused to generating quantum resources could assist guidance scalable producing of component components necessary for quantum technologies growth.
  • The present-day quantum source chain is world-wide, which poses hazards. For case in point, it is hard to obtain a finish comprehending of a component’s possible vulnerabilities.
  • Some significant parts, these types of as exceptional earths, are mined primarily outside of the U.S., which may well pose dangers to the supply chain that are complicated to mitigate.
  • Quantum producing services take a very long time to develop and can be pricey.

Supply: GAO. | GAO-21-104422

Why GAO Did This Analyze

Quantum details technologies could dramatically raise abilities beyond what is doable with classical technologies. Future quantum computers could have large-worth programs in protection, cryptography, drug progress, and vitality. Upcoming quantum communications could permit for safe communications by generating details hard to intercept without having the eavesdropper staying detected.

GAO conducted a engineering evaluation on (1) the availability of quantum computing and communications systems and how they work, (2) potential long term applications of these kinds of technologies and gains and negatives from their progress and use, and (3) things that could influence technological innovation improvement and coverage solutions readily available to support tackle people elements, greatly enhance positive aspects, or mitigate negatives.

To address these targets, GAO reviewed key reviews and scientific literature interviewed govt, field, tutorial associates, and probable conclude consumers and convened a assembly of industry experts in collaboration with the Countrywide Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. GAO is pinpointing coverage choices in this report.

For more data, get in touch with Karen L. Howard at (202) 512-6888 or [email protected]