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Chinese universities and U.S. technology companies such as International Business Machines Corp. and Microsoft Corp. are racing to develop quantum computers, a type of processing that’s forecast to be so powerful it can transform how drug-makers, agriculture companies and auto manufacturers discover compounds and materials.
Quantum computing uses the movement of subatomic particles to process data in amounts that modern computers can’t handle. Mostly theoretical now, the technology is expected to be able to perform calculations that make today’s computers look akin to an abacus.
While overall spending by China is unknown, its government is building a $10bn National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences in Hefei, Anhui Province, which is slated to open in 2020. U.S.-funded research in quantum is about $200m a year, according to a July 2016 government report, and some researchers and companies don’t believe that’s enough.
One “killer app” may be encryption, the code scrambling technology that secures modern global commerce and communications. China, Chinese universities and western financial institutions are rushing to patent more ways to use quantum technology for encryption, a study by research firm Patinformatics found.
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