Sustainable development is one of the most pressing issues of our time. It is a concept based on three pillars: economic prosperity, social equity, and environmental protection. The United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets out 17 goals to address these issues through action across all sectors.
Since 2030 is only eight years away, there’s increased awareness of the need for sustainability across three sections.
A growing number of public and commercial institutions are striving for net-zero emissions by 2050 or earlier; this falls under the Climate Action goal. Reducing the high current ratio of energy from conventional fossil fuel sources with energy from local/regional renewable sources like solar, wind, and volcano is the first step as companies work toward decarbonization.
Thankfully, renewable energy costs are declining, and more customers are considering green, but the production volume is still low.
Sustainable Products And Services
Customers are becoming aware of the effects of climate change and the importance of sustainability. They’d rather buy sustainable products like biodegradable cutlery.
Environmental, Social, And Governance (ESG) Investment
According to Bloomberg, global ESG assets are on track to hit $50 trillion by 2025, accounting for more than a third of the anticipated total assets under management of $140.5 trillion. As a result, organizations are actively disclosing their ESG strategy, goals, and performance.
What Technology Offers
Technology has been an important driver of economic growth and social development over the last few centuries. It has increased productivity and improved quality of life by providing goods and services at lower costs and higher quantities.
New technologies are emerging, providing us with an extraordinary opportunity to accelerate change and improve human productivity and life experience. One such technology is quantum tech. Though in its infancy, some industry and research-driven efforts have reached the proof-of-concept level.
Quantum’s influence is expected to be significant and transformational in the future, with applications spanning from optimization to machine learning, simulation, precision sensing, and security. We will look at three leading quantum technologies and how they can be applied to the UN’s sustainability goals.
Quantum computing has the potential to solve problems that are currently unsolvable. The possibilities are enormous, from searching large data sets, to designing new materials and medicines, to discovering new drugs and cures for diseases.
Whereas classical computers require that the data be encoded into binary digits (bits), each of which is always in one of two definite states (0 or 1), quantum computation uses quantum bits or qubits, which can be in superpositions of states. Thus, it can process data a lot quicker. Quantum computing can be applied to optimization, simulation, and machine learning.
Multiple intricate issues in various sectors have some connection to optimization. Optimization is needed in the manufacturing industries to strengthen product performance, lower overall production or delivery costs, raise returns on investment, improve efficient goods routing, and other logistics or supply chain concerns.
The goal of optimization is to identify the best feasible solution given the known factors for these problems, which are frequently dependent on a mix of numerous variables and solutions. Quantum computers promise to be extremely effective in dealing with such complex optimization problems quicker and more accurately.
Quantum Machine learning, QML
In recent years, machine learning in commercial and industrial applications has advanced significantly, and its potential benefits have come to light. The advancement of quantum computing will mean an advancement in machine learning.
Applying quantum computing to existing simulation methods will birth accurate modeling of materials, their characteristics, and their interactions. Currently, supercomputers and conventional computers cannot correctly simulate or calculate the features of some computations.
For instance, pharmaceutical and chemical industries must evaluate the precise composition of specific molecules to understand how they interact with other molecules while generating new medications or chemicals.
The creation and application of quantum states and components for communication protocols are called quantum communication. It uses the features of quantum physics to secure data and offer a brand-new communication mechanism that is impossible with conventional communication techniques.
Presently, there are two possible alternatives to public-private key cryptography that supports the foundation of present communications networks;
- Quantum key distribution (QKD), which uses Discrete Variable QKD and Continuous Variable QKD) to generate “quantum” keys, which are used to encrypt messages and,
- Post-quantum cryptography (PQC). PQC modifies existing encryption standards on traditional networks to make them quantum-safe. It was born out of the realization that traditional public key cryptography and digital signatures are not secure against quantum computers.
Quantum sensors will be applied in measuring devices in the automotive, consumer electronics, healthcare, industrial, aerospace, and military industries. The quantum sensing industry is working on various devices, including atomic clocks, single-photon detectors, PAR sensors, spin-qubit-based sensors, and quantum rotation sensors.
Practical Applications Of Quantum Technologies To UN’s Sustainability Goals
The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) call for a shift towards more sustainable production and consumption patterns, with particular attention paid to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Quantum technologies offer significant opportunities to achieve these goals by accelerating scientific discoveries in genetic engineering, materials science, and energy storage. Here, we’ll look at ways quantum technology can bring these goals to reality shortly.
SDQ 1. No Poverty
According to the UN,10% of the world’s population lives in poverty with little or no access to clean water, food, and healthcare. Engineers can apply quantum simulation to further research into water filtration and membrane technology for potable water and wastewater treatment.
Quantum computing may be particularly beneficial in carrying out extensive risk modeling using various input factors to analyze the possible impact of water loss caused by catastrophic occurrences.
SDQ 2. Zero hunger
According to the UN, 2.37 billion people are either without food or don’t eat well-balanced food daily. This goal aims to make food available globally, and one way to do that is through efficient routing of food delivery.
One of the primary difficulties in the food value chain is delivering perishable commodities to consumption sites in an efficient and timely way that minimizes waste while lowering the associated carbon footprint. Supply chain optimization through quantum computing will help find the most efficient route from farm to fork.
Precision farming can guarantee a better yield-to-inputs ratio. With quantum simulation, it may be possible to identify crops with desirable features. Plant genome quantum simulation may increase features such as resistance to changing climatic conditions or optimize crop production, allowing farmers to use sustainable techniques and return agricultural land to nature.
Quantum machine learning may be applied in precision farming for optimal water consumption, fertilizer application, and yield prediction using IoT, drones, and visual analytics. It can also aid in developing more automation in large-scale farming activities to increase food output.
SDG 3. Good Health And Well-Being
The goal is to provide universal health coverage for men, women, and children.
Research in health and life sciences has proven that quantum technology can improve silico drug discovery, the design and development of new medications, and optimize chemical and biological processes through realistic molecular dynamics modelling.
Quantum sensing can be applied in medical imaging for Magnetoencephalography (MEG), a test that measures magnetic fields created by electrical currents in the brain. Quantum magnetometry can potentially improve such medical imaging applications, particularly in studying brain health in aging populations.
Applying quantum sensors to In vitro diagnostics can aid in developing better lateral flow sensitivity through functionalized nanodiamonds. This might aid in detecting illnesses or other disorders and monitoring a person’s general health, thereby aiding in disease diagnosis, treatment, or prevention.
SDG 4. Quality Education
By exploiting student data, quantum machine learning can help develop individualized adaptive learning approaches and make educated decisions on student learning requirements.
SDG 5. Gender Equality
Quantum optimization can be used to allocate economic and other resources more efficiently for various projects empowering women and their growth. Gender decoders driven by AI might assist organizations in using more gender-sensitive and inclusive language to enhance diversity.
SDG 6. Clean Water And Sanitation
According to the UN, two billion people do not have safe drinking water, and 2.3 billion do not have access to a basic hand-washing facility.
Quantum computing can optimize the management and distribution of water supplies from various sources to those in need while minimizing waste and lowering water scarcity.
SDG 7. Affordable And Clean Energy
This objective’s primary purpose is to offer global access to modern energy. There’s a need to increase global renewable energy generation and availability.
Quantum computing can be used to simulate industrial and materials science applications such as battery design, the discovery of novel materials such as superconductors, and developing a better knowledge of the characteristics of hydrocarbons to chemicals used in oil and gas extraction.
SDG 8. Decent Work And Economic Growth
Quantum simulation methods may be used to simulate various micro- and macroeconomic models for analyzing economic conditions and national growth.
Quantum risk modelling can help financial firms improve and broaden access to banking, insurance, and other financial services through practical risk assessment and credit distribution of resources.
SDG 9. Industry, Innovation, And Infrastructure
There are several instances of optimization, such as real-time routes, optimization, production processes, warehouse robot routing, and demand forecasting, among other things.
Optimizing systems in public transportation, utilities (such as water, electricity, and gas), distribution networks, and telecommunications, including internet access, are typical quantum technology applications.
The simulation also provides several options for pushing infrastructures, such as finding the best mix of polymers to build stronger concrete or better and more efficient catalysts for hydrogen synthesis in steel manufacture.
SDG 10. Reduced Inequalities
The UN aims to resolve inequities across nations, such as representation, migration, and development support. Simulation and QML can be used to estimate risks, identify fraud, and price derivatives of financial instruments, improving financial soundness indicators.
SDG 11. Sustainable Cities And Communities
The world’s population is rising, and 68% of the population is expected to live in cities by 2050. There’s a need for better housing plans and sustainable transport systems.
Quantum computing can be used in materials science research to create more cost-effective building materials with the required strength and to model atmospheric factors such as air quality or inner-city heat stress. Quantum gyroscopes can improve driving precision and lessen dependency on satellite navigation in autonomous vehicles.
SDG 12. Responsible Consumption And Production
The 12th goal is to ensure we don’t consume more than nature can provide and protect the earth.
In this area, quantum magnetometry can be used to identify and monitor toxins such as coal mine leakage into groundwater and rivers. Quantum gravimetry can be applied when measuring surrounding water flow to find appropriate trash locations, decreasing water pollution from run-off.
SDG 13. Climate Action
Climate Action is a global initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build climate resilience. As part of the agreement, countries have committed to reducing their emissions.
With the advancement in quantum technology, it’ll be possible to develop equipment and technologies to decarbonize air through carbon sequestration. Furthermore, the use of simulation tools to improve wind turbine performance in design and development, material research to improve solar panel efficiency, and battery storage research have potential benefits.
SDG 14. Life Below Water
Aquatic life conservation involves protecting and restoring aquatic ecosystems and the plants and animals that live in them.
Scientists can use quantum computing to simulate the ocean acidification process and ascertain its impact. QML can also help estimate and predict fish stocks and other species living in the sea, which can help guide policy to maintain sustainable levels and control fishing and other human activities.
SDG 15. Life On Land
The rapid loss of wildlife and ecosystems is a major threat to human welfare and sustainable development. In this area, quantum optimization can help resource management to protect biodiversity and ecosystems and manage forests more sustainably.
SDG 16. Peace, Justice, And Strong Institutions
Peace, justice, and strong institutions are the pillars of development. Without them, there can be no sustainable progress. QML can be used to limit illegal financial flows by detecting money laundering and fraudulent transactions and, consequently, crime.
SDG 17. Partnerships For The Goals
International organizations and governments must work together to achieve the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Machine learning can be used to identify and remedy money laundering and other forms of tax evasion. It may also aid in increasing domestic resource mobilization through tax and other revenue collection.
Sustainable development means shaping the world’s future in many ways, from making travel safer and easier to improving climate change mitigation to providing food, healthcare, and advanced energy sources. Quantum technology might be the answer.
But quantum computers aren’t ready for mass adoption due to their enormous processing and memory demands. In the future, technologies like these will become more readily available; we could begin to solve some of humanity’s most pressing issues with much greater ease.