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Going Green with Quantum

3
August
,
2021

Quantum computing is expected to have a dramatic impact on multiple industries: logistics, pharmaceuticals, financial services, automotive, and many more. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) recently estimated that “quantum computing could create value of $450 billion to $850 billion in the next 15 to 30 years”, with $5 billion to $10 possibly accruing to users and providers as soon as the next three to five years.

The broad potential impact begs the question: could quantum computing have a positive green impact on our planet?

The answer seems to be a resounding: YES. Let’s examine a few ways in which this vision could turn into a green reality:

Development of new chemical catalysts. Catalysts increase the rate of a chemical reaction. While catalysts are used in numerous chemical processes, one high-impact process is the Haber-Bosch process used to produce ammonia. Ammonia is a key component of agricultural fertilizers. It is estimated that nearly 3% of the global energy consumption is used in the production of ammonia, through a chemical process known as Haber-Bosch. Why is this relevant to quantum computing? It is because quantum computers excel at simulating chemical reactions, due to the fact that atoms interact according to the laws of quantum mechanics. Unlike classical computers, quantum computers can simulate molecules involving 50 or more atoms.. We expect that quantum computers will help develop new catalysts that can make a significant green impact in the production of ammonia as well as other energy-rich processes. 

Additional chemical applications. The discovery of new materials and processes using quantum computers can make an environmental contribution beyond the chemical catalysts. For instance, developing more efficient solar panels or carbon-capture devices. Battery development is another example, estimated by BCG to unlock between $20 to $40 billion of value. Better batteries would increase the attractiveness of electric vehicles and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Route optimization. Quantum computers are particularly adept at running many simultaneous calculations, as opposed to classical computers that can run one calculation at a time. This capability lends itself particularly well to optimization: picking the best option from many alternatives. An example of such an optimization problem is what is often referred to as the ‘traveling salesperson problem’, dealing with finding the optimal sequence of stops on a multi-route journey. An optimal route could be, for instance, one that minimizes the carbon footprint. Responsible transportation companies and airlines could use such optimization to make another contribution to footprint reduction.

These are just a handful of examples of how quantum computing can make a significant contribution to the well-being of our planet.


Quantum computing is expected to have a dramatic impact on multiple industries: logistics, pharmaceuticals, financial services, automotive, and many more. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) recently estimated that “quantum computing could create value of $450 billion to $850 billion in the next 15 to 30 years”, with $5 billion to $10 possibly accruing to users and providers as soon as the next three to five years.

The broad potential impact begs the question: could quantum computing have a positive green impact on our planet?

The answer seems to be a resounding: YES. Let’s examine a few ways in which this vision could turn into a green reality:

Development of new chemical catalysts. Catalysts increase the rate of a chemical reaction. While catalysts are used in numerous chemical processes, one high-impact process is the Haber-Bosch process used to produce ammonia. Ammonia is a key component of agricultural fertilizers. It is estimated that nearly 3% of the global energy consumption is used in the production of ammonia, through a chemical process known as Haber-Bosch. Why is this relevant to quantum computing? It is because quantum computers excel at simulating chemical reactions, due to the fact that atoms interact according to the laws of quantum mechanics. Unlike classical computers, quantum computers can simulate molecules involving 50 or more atoms.. We expect that quantum computers will help develop new catalysts that can make a significant green impact in the production of ammonia as well as other energy-rich processes. 

Additional chemical applications. The discovery of new materials and processes using quantum computers can make an environmental contribution beyond the chemical catalysts. For instance, developing more efficient solar panels or carbon-capture devices. Battery development is another example, estimated by BCG to unlock between $20 to $40 billion of value. Better batteries would increase the attractiveness of electric vehicles and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Route optimization. Quantum computers are particularly adept at running many simultaneous calculations, as opposed to classical computers that can run one calculation at a time. This capability lends itself particularly well to optimization: picking the best option from many alternatives. An example of such an optimization problem is what is often referred to as the ‘traveling salesperson problem’, dealing with finding the optimal sequence of stops on a multi-route journey. An optimal route could be, for instance, one that minimizes the carbon footprint. Responsible transportation companies and airlines could use such optimization to make another contribution to footprint reduction.

These are just a handful of examples of how quantum computing can make a significant contribution to the well-being of our planet.


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