Clean Air Q

Introduction: Climate Change

Climate change is an unimaginably large global problem. 20 million people lose their homes each year due to climate change induced natural disasters. Half of all deaths in children under the age of five are because of climate related hunger. Increasing temperatures are melting ice sheets and rising sea levels. Further, the extra carbon dioxide in the air is reducing the pH of oceans, harming coral reefs and aquatic life. If this trend continues, up to 50% of species around the world are projected to lose their suitable climate conditions by 2100, leading to significant biodiversity losses.

Direct Air Capture and Carbon Conversion

To offset carbon emissions, it is vital that carbon dioxide from the air is removed. Direct air capture (DAC) is a promising method of pulling in air from the atmosphere, separating the carbon dioxide, and storing it underground or in a commercially used material.

A direct air capture facility
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Quantum Computing

Quantum computers run off of “qubits,” which can be represented as a linear combination of 0 and 1 (called “superposition”), rather than a rigid 0 or 1 value used in classical computers.

  1. Information about a particle’s electron orbitals are encoded into qubits. From this, a circuit architecture (called the ansatz) prepares an initial “trial” wave function representing the particle. This will eventually serve as a guess for the ground state energy.
  2. Then, the ground state energy of this wavefunction is calculated and sent to a classical optimizer as an “expectation value”.
  3. The classical optimizer will adjust certain parameters in the quantum circuit to get a lower expectation value. Repeat!
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Feasibility

Today’s quantum computers are unable to simulate more than a few atoms because larger particles require more qubits. As more qubits are added to a circuit, error also increases because it is harder for qubits to maintain their entangled, or connected state. This loss of entanglement is called decoherence. Environmental disturbances, such as temperature fluctuations or radiation, can also lead to error in the delicate circuit. Currently, the computer with the most amount of functioning qubits is IBM’s 65-qubit computer. However, IBM is projected to create a functioning computer with upwards of 1000 qubits by 2023. Additionally, various experts in the field have validated this idea, and claim that quantum chemistry is the most promising application of quantum computing.

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