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Material By Design: Future Science or Science Fiction?

3 min read

You don’t hear much talk about it anymore, but one of the tacit promises held out by the field of nanotechnology has been ”material by design.” To solve a specific problem using this ”bottom-up” approach—say, creating a material engineered for efficient hydrogen storage—you design and create structures, atom by atom or molecule by molecule, that provide the functionality needed for a particular application.

But despite government task forces and lots of fascinating nanoscale research (like the beautiful model of the first 3-D assembly of magnetic and semiconducting nanoparticles shown here), material by design isn’t even on the horizon, certainly not for the production of bulk commercial materials. The goal of an ambitious business alliance launched in 1996, the Chemical Industry Vision2020 Technology Partnership, was to have designer materials in production by 2020. In fact, we are so far from that goal it’s not clear whether we will ever be able to overcome all the obstacles.

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An IBM Quantum Computer Will Soon Pass the 1,000-Qubit Mark

The Condor processor is just one quantum-computing advance slated for 2023

4 min read
This photo shows a woman working on a piece of apparatus that is suspended from the ceiling of the laboratory.

A researcher at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center examines some of the quantum hardware being constructed there.

Connie Zhou/IBM

IBM’s Condor, the world’s first universal quantum computer with more than 1,000 qubits, is set to debut in 2023. The year is also expected to see IBM launch Heron, the first of a new flock of modular quantum processors that the company says may help it produce quantum computers with more than 4,000 qubits by 2025.

This article is part of our special report Top Tech 2023.

While quantum computers can, in theory, quickly find answers to problems that classical computers would take eons to solve, today’s quantum hardware is still short on qubits, limiting its usefulness. Entanglement and other quantum states necessary for quantum computation are infamously fragile, being susceptible to heat and other disturbances, which makes scaling up the number of qubits a huge technical challenge.

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