The creation of new materials is high on many people’s wish list. Could quantum computers help?
What we wouldn’t give to create new materials. Alchemists — in one form or another — have been around since the ancient Egyptians. During the renaissance period and later, men like Jean Baptista Van Helmon and the famous Isaac Newton were trying to turn base metals into gold with the help of the philosopher’s stone. Though this was more pseudoscience than science, the intention was good.
Can you imagine, though, if they had been successful? Investor’s gold portfolios would be worth virtually nothing these days.
That’s surely a case of supply outstripping demand.
But all that is conjecture. What about the facts?
Theoretical/combinatorial chemistry using quantum manipulation could outline, for example, electrons’ behaviour in molecules and atoms. Being able to do something like this and predict the way they assemble within the constituent atoms ‘could be the key’ to how materials are formed and how — in theory — new ones are created.
At the moment the computational power of classical binary systems is not up to the job.
So that is why quantum computing (QC) could just be a panacea, as quantum computers have the ‘ability’ to replicate/represent the predictive state of electrons in molecules or atoms much better and faster than classical computers.
This, in turn, means a quantum computer with enough logical qubits could systematically calculate electrons’ state in molecules and create new materials.
At the moment this is still in the realm of science fiction but we are reaching an inflection point.
Realizing this, many of the large corporations and mid-size companies are investing in R&D in this area.
Concerns like Archer Materials lead the way in material science using nanotechnology and quantum information science.
Startups, with little money but with bags on energy, know-how and determination, are jumping on the bandwagon, too.
One such case is Pine.ly, a pre-seed startup founded in Toronto in 2019 with connections to Entrepreneur First Singapore and the Creative Destruction Lab Toronto programs.
Pine.ly’s focus, then, is to speed up the development of materials that are sustainable.
‘Our core technology leverages quantum computing and classical simulations to optimize chemical systems. Quantum computing is poised to revolutionize the chemical industry due to improved accuracy and scaling.’
In charge are female founders Rachelle Choueiri and Shabnam Safaei. Together, they lead a team of computational chemists and scientists. The startup’s mission is already cut out for them in this demanding and highly technical area of chemistry.
The first director of Pine.ly is Choueiri. With a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Toronto, she also has research and teaching experience at universities in Canada, as well as a freelance writing background. She is, moreover, the co-founder of computer software company Taste.Guru.
Choueriri’s partner in crime is Safaei. Gaining her Ph.D. in physics from the Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, like her co-director, Safaei has research and teaching experience. This has come in Iran, Turkey and Singapore. Furthermore, to add to her credentials, Safaei was also a Research Fellow for over five years at the Centre for Quantum Technologies, Singapore.
Both ladies were Founders in Residence at Entrepreneurs First, Singapore while currently Entrepreneurs of the Creative Destruction Lab, Toronto.
This experience should serve them well as their entrepreneurial adventure kicks off.
So, what have they got planned for the near future?
First in the startup’s sights is
‘[…] improving reactions that transform excess carbon dioxide emissions into value-added products.’
TQD wishes them all the best.