There are two reference sources for this article: The MIT xPRO Quantum Computing Fundamentals program & the textbook “Quantum Effects In Biology.”
Upon first consideration, Quantum Computing and Quantum Biology seem to be very different fields, utilizing the principles of quantum mechanics in different ways. Quantum computing involves using quantum bits or qubits to perform operations on large amounts of data simultaneously; quantum biology involves studying the role of quantum mechanics in biological systems. The comparison invites a consideration of “ hard tech” inspired by “soft tech.”
Despite the differences, really it’s the same stuff, the same fundamental building blocks. And quantum biology crossover could contribute tremendously to advances in quantum computing. One potential application is the development of more efficient algorithms for quantum computers based on biological processes. Many of these processes — such as photosynthesis, magnetoreception and olfaction — involve the quantum phenomena of superposition, translocation, tunneling and resonance —which rely on the transfer of energy through quantum coherence, which is much needed by quantum computing.
Quantum Coherence refers to the ability of a quantum state to maintain entanglement or superposition. Another way of saying this is that the information qubits are overlapping, transposed or associated, which is essential to quantum computing.
By studying biological processes more closely at the atomic and subatomic level, researchers could develop a new level of understanding of natural quantum functionality, which in turn inspires new algorithms, and even new hardware, that take advantage of quantum mechanics. The goal is to perform complex computations more efficiently in that modality, more efficiently and much faster than classical computing.
There’s great potential in the application of quantum biology to quantum computing in the development of more appropriate, stable and reliable quantum hardware. Biological systems are able to maintain quantum coherence for long periods of time despite noise and interactions with their environment! Quantum biological processes happen at comfy ambient temperatures, in contrast to ultra cold quantum computing processors. By studying how biological systems such as those of the human body, plants and planet Earth are able to do this, researchers can develop new techniques for reducing the effects of decoherence in quantum computing hardware.
Photosynthesis, for example, makes use of superposition of charged electrons for highly efficient energy transfer and production. Given this natural inspiration, a logical pathway for quantum technologies is through the lens of photonics, or light driven innovations, coupled with the electrochemistry of different architectures. This would effect the energy sector as well, and not just computing. More biocompatible technologies could arise — there’s already some terms for this such as ‘biocomputing.’
Overall, while quantum computing and quantum biology are different fields, there is potential for cross-disciplinary collaboration that could lead to huge advances in both areas. By studying biological systems, researchers will gain new insights into quantum mechanics that could be applied to the development of more advanced and reliable quantum computers, and beyond.