(Physics.org) Quantum computing experts acknowledge that the technology has a long way to go but say they are making rapid progress in both hardware and software development. They also point to specific applications at which classical simulations struggle and quantum machines could have their first impacts.
Many scientists believe that the first impact of quantum computers could be in catalysis research—the search for compounds that facilitate important chemical reactions.
Emily Carter, a theoretical chemist at the University of California, Los Angeles, says quantum computing may help in studying materials whose complex electronic structures strain existing classical methods, such as superconductors in which individual electron-electron interactions determine the material’s behavior. If researchers can develop quantum algorithms for simulating such “strongly correlated” materials, “you could end up learning things that are qualitatively new,” she says.
Several materials scientists and chemists interviewed for this story viewed 10 years as the lower bound for when a quantum computer could become useful.