The so-called second quantum revolution is in full swing, with scientists not only able to understand what happens at a sub-atomic level but also control this quantum behaviour enough to develop new technologies. Six months after the launch of the EU’s €1 billion quantum flagship initiative to kickstart a European quantum technologies industry, we take a look at the potential of quantum to revolutionise our future. We speak to one researcher who is helping to build a quantum computer about the global race to do this and how Europe is faring. We take a look at the threat and promise of quantum technologies in the field of cryptography and find out how quantum simulators can be used to solve non-quantum problems. And finally, we speak to the scientists who are using quantum mechanics to improve the performance of brain scanners and better diagnose medical conditions.
When you hear the word ‘quantum’, you may imagine physicists working on a new ground breaking theory. Or perhaps you’ve read about quantum computers and how they might change the world. But one lesser-known field is also starting to reap the benefits of the quantum realm – medicine.
A powerful new form of computing could help scientists design new types of materials for nanoelectronics, allow airlines to solve complex logistical problems to ensure flights run on time, and tackle traffic jams to keep cars flowing more freely on busy roads.
Quantum computers pose a big threat to the security of modern communications, deciphering cryptographic codes that would take regular computers forever to crack. But drawing on the properties of quantum behaviour could also provide a route to truly secure cryptography.
European scientists have spent 100 years developing the field of quantum mechanics – a branch of physics dealing with the atomic and subatomic scale – and we need to reap the profits now that quantum computers and other technologies are becoming a reality, according to Dr Thomas Monz from the University of Innsbruck, Austria.
With the world in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, in April Horizon takes a step back to look at some of the challenges around sudden outbreaks of emerging diseases. We speak to virologist Prof. Marion Koopmans about the likelihood of future outbreaks of new diseases, what causes them and how to spot them before they appear. We speak to scientists who are helping to develop tests for Covid-19 to understand the challenges in coming up with an accurate and detailed diagnostic test for an entirely new disease. We talk to people working on coronavirus treatments about how to shorten the normally lengthy process of drug development. And we look into why diseases suddenly jump from animals, such as bats, into humans and the particular challenges of spotting and responding to these types of outbreaks.
Private companies are increasingly active in the space sector – from high-profile businesses such as SpaceX or Virgin Galactic to the nearly 3,000 small businesses that provide elements for the European Space Agency’s space programme. In March, Horizon explores the impact of this on research and innovation. We speak to a space law researcher about how to avoid the problems emerging from an increasingly crowded orbit, such as collisions. We look at how to minimise the environmental impact of satellites and delve into efforts to build a reusable European launcher for small payloads. We also look at the challenge of assembling, maintaining and repairing objects in space and the developments in space robotics that could help.
A team that has spent the last five years developing a pipeline of technologies that can churn out a remedy for almost any newly emerging virus may have treatments ready for safety trials on Covid-19 patients by the end of the year.
By harnessing the power of strong winds at higher altitude than turbines reach, airborne wind energy could be another key source of renewable energy, but it will need a combination of successful designs, more robust software and good storytelling to really take off.
Scientists are developing a pipeline to churn out remedies for almost any newly emerging virus.
Airborne energy systems aim to capitalise on the stronger winds at high altitudes.
The more satellite launches we do, the bigger the risk of damage or debris, says Dimitra Stefoudi.