Will quantum computation lower energy requirements?

In summary, the article discusses the potential impact of quantum computers on energy usage and efficiency. The CEO of D-Wave claims that quantum computers have the ability to find optimal solutions while using less energy due to their unique properties. However, some question the validity of this claim and suggest that other factors, such as display power and communication centers, may still dominate energy usage in the computing world. There is also debate about the scale at which quantum computing will be accessible and its potential for solving problems efficiently.
  • #1
QGrav
1
0
According to this article, written by D-Wave's CEO, the advent of quantum computers will "change the way the world uses energy". However, on a first reading, it sounds like an advertorial that pushes nonsense. I'm no energy scientist (unless you put high energy physics in that category for some reason), so if anyone has something to say about this, I'd be very interested.

One claim the author makes is this:

Thanks to the “weirdness” of quantum mechanical properties, qubits can represent both 1s and 0s at the same time, allowing quantum computers to find optimal solutions that classical systems cannot, all while using less energy.

Here’s why: For a quantum processor to exhibit quantum mechanical effects, you have to isolate it from its surroundings. This is done by shielding it from outside noise and operating it at extremely low temperatures. Most quantum processors use cryogenic refrigerators to operate, and can reach about 15 millikelvin–that’s colder than interstellar space. At this low temperature, the processor is superconducting, which means that it can conduct electricity with virtually no resistance. As a result, this processor uses almost no power and generates almost no heat, so the power draw of a quantum computer—or the amount of energy it consumes—is just a fraction of a classical computer’s.

This doesn't sound at all convincing to me. Convential computer chips can also be run at low temperatures, but refrigerating stuff costs energy too, and it's hard + expensive, so that's why you don't run your laptop at a few milliKelvins. Furthermore, lots of things that computers do will not at all be taken over by quantum chips, since there is only a small set of problems that can be solved more efficiently by quantum computation than by classical computation (and I suppose even that is still up for debate).

I see the value of hybrid computation, and what advantages quantum computers can provide us with, but I think it's stretching it too far to say that it will cause an energy revolution. Therefore I don't really understand the author's angle, it seems there are so many good things to be said about quantum computers that this article just seems to completely miss the point - and that's coming from a CEO of a quantum computing company. (I'm not going into whether D-Wave constructs actual quantum computers at all, since at this stage I suppose nobody can say for sure whether that's the case)

I'd be very happy to hear a more informed opinion on this, especially if I'm completely wrong. Thank you very much in advance!
 
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  • #2
I think your view is spot on.

Cheers
 
  • #3
I'm no expert, but I would imagine that the energy budget of "computing" world-wide is dominated by the consumption of the millions (billions?) of monitors, not the CPUs.

QGrav said:
I'd be very happy to hear a more informed opinion on this, especially if I'm completely wrong.

Me, too.
 
  • #4
gmax137 said:
I'm no expert, but I would imagine that the energy budget of "computing" world-wide is dominated by the consumption of the millions (billions?) of monitors, not the CPUs.
Me, too.
Good original question. Many facets to the answer,
The display of a smart phone is certailny a major factor in battery drain. (Say a few Watt Hours per owner per day) Similar computing circuit power is used for a big screen display.
Communication Centres (internet) take incredible amounts of Electrical Power and have to dissipate MW with their cooling circuits . Each user will take their share (plus the switchers and routers on the way) If quantum computing ever moves from the high cost 'mainframe' scale to the personal level then i would guess that the display power will still need to be similar to present day so your original pproposition would be even more accurate, I think.
 
  • #5
I do not consider myself an expert in quantum computing, but a rookie (I'm entering in the field). Therefore, if someone wants to correct/integrate this, I will be glad.

As I understand it, a quantum computer is (very roughly) like a parallel machine where the number of processor grows exponentially with the number of "physical resources" used. This descends from the fact that if your computer has N qubits, the vector space representing the state of your computer is the tensor product of the spaces representing the state of the single qubit. Since the number of dimension of the tensor product of two spaces V and W is the product of the dimensions of the two original spaces (i.e., dim(V) dim(W)), you can see that the dimension grows exponentially with the number of qubits. For example, if every qubit is a particle with a spin (up or down), the vector space associated to a qubit has dimension 2 and the vector space associated to the whole computer has dimension 2^N. You solve a problem with a quantum computer by having the state evolve (in the programmed way), "exploring" a number of potential solution that grows exponentially with the computer size.

It is true that a quantum computer must be kept cold, much colder than, for example, superconductive digital electronics: a quantum computer works at few mK, while superconductive electronics can work at the "hotter" :-) 4K (well, it is 2-3 order of magnitude hotter...). Keeping stuff so cold it is not easy and requires energy, but quantum computers compensate the consumption of the cooling system with their exponential efficiency.

My feeling, however, is that quantum computers are more suited for combinatorial-like problems (i.e., integer factorizations, NP-hard problems, ...), it is hard for me to imagine how a quantum computer could be used, for example, to solve a differential equation (although, I remember I read something about solving linear systems).

Summarizing, my feeling is that quantum computers (when the huge load of technical difficulties in having many qubits will be solved) will be a very powerful tool at least for some classes of problems. It is very difficult to envision a future where everyone will have a quantum computer working at 10mK on the desk or in the smartphone... Saying that it will be a revolution in energy management sounds like a kind of hyperbole
 

Related to Will quantum computation lower energy requirements?

1. What is quantum computation?

Quantum computation is a type of computing that uses quantum-mechanical phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement, to perform operations on data. It has the potential to solve certain problems much faster than classical computers.

2. How does quantum computation relate to energy requirements?

Quantum computation has the potential to significantly lower energy requirements for certain types of calculations. This is because quantum computers use quantum bits (qubits) which can represent multiple states simultaneously, reducing the number of operations needed and therefore the energy required.

3. Will quantum computation lower energy requirements for all types of calculations?

No, quantum computation will not necessarily lower energy requirements for all types of calculations. It is most effective for certain types of problems, such as optimization and simulation, but may not be as efficient for other types of calculations.

4. What are the potential benefits of using quantum computation to lower energy requirements?

Using quantum computation to lower energy requirements could have a significant impact on various industries, such as finance, healthcare, and transportation. It could also lead to more efficient and sustainable use of resources, as well as reduce the environmental impact of computing.

5. Are there any challenges or limitations to using quantum computation to lower energy requirements?

Yes, there are still many challenges and limitations to overcome before quantum computation can be used to significantly lower energy requirements. These include the development of more stable and reliable quantum hardware, as well as finding ways to efficiently map traditional algorithms onto quantum computers.

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