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Diamonds and Quantum Technology

  • Context (TH): The Customs Department’s restrictions on diamond imports are hindering India’s National Quantum Mission (NQM), an initiative to advance quantum technologies.

Quantum Technology

  • Quantum technology is a field of science and engineering that utilises the principles of quantum mechanics (fundamental theory describing nature at the atomic and subatomic scales).
  • It is used to develop superior quantum computers, sensors, encryption systems, etc.

Use of Diamond in Quantum Technology

  • Diamonds normally consist of carbon atoms arranged in a crystal structure called diamond cubic.
  • However, the atomic structure of some diamonds sometimes has two missing carbon atoms (defects). They are substituted by a nitrogen atom and a ‘hole’. This is called a ‘nitrogen-vacancy’ centre.
  • These ‘centres’ are very sensitive to the slightest variations in magnetic fields
  • An electron at such a centre can be individually tweaked and made to behave like a qubit.

Qubits

  • Quantum computers use qubits (quantum bits) as the basic unit of information.
  • Binary bits can represent either 0 or 1, but qubits can exist in a superposition of states, meaning they can represent both 0 and 1 simultaneously. This allows qubits to carry more information.
  • This property also allows quantum computers to perform multiple calculations parallelly.

Lab Grown Diamonds Over Natural Diamonds

  • Quantum scientists prefer lab-grown diamonds over natural diamonds because:
    • Controlled Defects: Lab-grown diamonds can be engineered with nitrogen-vacancy centres, offering precise and tailored properties for quantum applications.
    • Scalability and Reliability: Lab-grown diamond production scales predictably, ensuring reliable supply for research and development, unlike natural diamond mining.
    • Ethical and Environmental Impact: Lab-grown diamonds are more ethical and environmentally friendly than mined diamonds, promoting sustainable practices in R&D.

Issue in India

  • Indian diamantaires are not yet equipped to make diamonds with quantum-research-ready ‘defects.’
  • The diamonds with the appropriate defects have to be imported from Europe or the US.
  • However, research facilities cannot import these diamonds as they are not classified as gemologists according to India’s customs laws.
  • They have to buy it from the import and export companies in India that are licensed to import diamonds.
  • This increases the cost and hinders the R&D of quantum technology in India.
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