Last week, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology passed a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the National Quantum Initiative Act, which expired in September of this year.
Signed into law in 2018, the goal of the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) was “to accelerate quantum research and development for the economic and national security of the United States.” According to the committee’s executive summary, the act authorized the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Energy (DOE) to strengthen quantum information science programs, centers, and consortia. It also called for a coordinated approach to quantum research and development efforts across the United States government.
Frank Lucas (R-OK) chairs the House committee, which advanced the reauthorization bill (HR 6213). He says this reauthorization “will harness the accomplishments of the Committee’s 2018 National Quantum Initiative Act to conduct breakthrough research, drive new quantum applications, bolster industry partnerships, and invigorate the quantum ecosystem.”
So, what is quantum technology, and why is this important?
Quantum technology utilizes principles from quantum mechanics, a branch of physics involving the behavior of tiny particles at the quantum level. At the quantum level, the classical laws of physics break down, and probabilities rather than certainties describe the behavior of particles. These unique quantum properties can be used to develop new types of technologies with capabilities that surpass those of classical technologies in specific applications.
Some key aspects of quantum technology include quantum computing, allowing computers to perform complex calculations faster than traditional computers. There is also quantum cryptography, which utilizes principles of quantum mechanics to secure communication channels and quantum communication, securing communication over long distances.
These technologies will be transformative in the scientific, economic, and defense realms. To that end, there is a global race to develop and harness this technology. Chairman Lucas notes that China and Russia are both making significant investments in quantum systems, and this bill will help the United States secure leadership in this revolutionary field.
There is tremendous potential in quantum technologies, and it is still in its early stages of development and realizing its possibilities. Bills such as this will allow for the needed funding and support to advance this technology and establish the United States as a leader in the quantum technology race.