This page belongs to: National Quantum Strategy

Appendix: Categories of quantum technologies

Quantum technologies and materials will be used across sectors and shape many areas of our economy. They can bring significant economic, productivity, social and environmental benefits.

There are 3 main categories of quantum technologies: sensing, computers and communications.

Quantum sensing

Quantum sensing allows us to detect and map objects through barriers, in unique ways and at distances with extreme precision. Applications for quantum sensors include enhanced imaging, passive navigation, precise timing and remote sensing.

This may help us to:

  • map and understand the brain, the heart and other organs, as well as transform the way we detect and diagnose disease
  • detect mineral deposits deeper underground without needing to dig
  • find leaks and other issues in underground pipes and cables
  • navigate with greater accuracy. More accurate position, navigation and timing systems are important for emerging technologies such as self-driving cars and military capabilities.

Quantum computers

Quantum computers use quantum mechanics to perform complex calculations using less steps than an ordinary computer.

Quantum computers work by creating a superposition of lots of different possible solutions to a problem, encoded in qubits. They then manipulate that superposition so that wrong solutions cancel out and right ones are strengthened.

By harnessing these capabilities, quantum computers could:

  • optimise logistics to deliver our parcels faster and more accurately
  • improve the efficiency of our public transport networks
  • model probabilities of extreme weather events and complex health challenges like pandemics
  • model optimal responses to emergencies like fires and floods
  • simulate complex molecules that could be used in advanced materials (such as the best structure and material composition for aeroplanes) and clean technologies like batteries
  • model chemical and drug reactions, which can drastically speed up medical research for new medicines and vaccines
  • improve earth observation from space to more precisely observe parameters for disaster resilience and climate change.

Quantum communications

Quantum communications may enable faster and more secure communications networks. Applications include:

  • transferring information between quantum computers
  • sharing cryptographic keys between distant people in a way that makes them impossible for anyone else to copy.

Through quantum communications we can:

  • drive the next generation of cyber security and secure communications
  • create high-speed networks, including a future quantum internet, that will deliver a host of new applications
  • enable distributed quantum computing, increasing computing power.

Post-quantum cryptography (also called quantum-resistant cryptography) is a cryptographic system that is secure against both quantum and classical computers. It can interoperate with existing communications protocols and networks.