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Data centers are showing a significant reduction in our world’s energy resources and are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. This computing hub produces 200 million tons of CO2 Uses 2% of electricity annually and worldwide, according to Accenture, The project is expected to reach 8% by 2030. The Aspen Global Change Institute adds that some of the world’s largest data centers use more than 100MW of power – enough to power about 80,000 US homes.
The data center as an energy drain became a topic of discussion in tech and political circles more than a decade ago. In 2007, at the request of Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) produced a report on server and data center energy usage, costs and efficiency opportunities.
This led to the Green Data Center movement which gave birth to companies like Verne Global, which built hydroelectric- and geothermal-powered data centers in Iceland. And a few years after a Microsoft researcher wrote a paper proposing an underwater data center, Microsoft splashed with an underwater data center that was used to cool seawater. Highlander, meanwhile, recently signed an agreement to build a commercial underwater data center in the Chinese coastal city of Sanya.
Work is underway to build more energy-efficient data centers across a range of companies including Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Intel and others. Many green data center efforts focus primarily on the use of renewable energy sources for power and / or cool standard computing equipment. But in a world that continues to fight a global epidemic and see U.S. workers quit their jobs at record rates, sustainability is not as important as in the past.
However, as the World Health Organization (WHO) recently reminded us, climate change is “the single biggest health threat to humanity,” leading to extreme weather events, disruptions to food systems and the spread of diseases. And quantum computing can help address that.
Quantum computing power can help in the process of reducing carbon fixation by converting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere into other useful compounds. Plants do this naturally, but quantum computers can help us find artificial catalytic processes. Instead of trial-and-error experiments, quantum computers can effectively simulate alternatives and find efficient methods for extracting carbon dioxide and converting it into useful chemicals.
It is also worth considering how the choice of computing equipment – today and in the future – will affect energy consumption. And you may be surprised to learn that quantum computers can perform some calculations very quickly using only a fraction of the energy used by classical computers.
Here’s why: A traditional data center computer can use billions of transistors. But with a quantum computer, you have hundreds – or ultimately, millions – of qubits (quantum bits). That means you need enough energy to excite or rotate millions of atoms instead of billions of transistors. And quantum computers can analyze large data sets in parallel; While the classical computer needs to do its serial analysis.
I am not alone in believing that quantum computers will be more energy-efficient than supercomputers in certain computational problems. Research published by a team of experts from NASA’s AIIMS Research Center, Google and Oak Ridge National Lab has shown this benefit. In their analysis, quantum computers use 0.002% of the energy used by classical computers to perform the same function.
Quantum computing will help companies and researchers solve some of the world’s most previously unresolved problems, such as drug discovery, electric vehicle battery innovation, and power grid optimization at a time when the world needs more solutions than ever before.
Companies and countries are racing to deploy quantum solutions to their advantage. But it is important to remember that we are all in this together when it comes to climate change. And we all stand to benefit from the success that quantum computing can enable. The fact that quantum computers require much less energy than conventional computers makes them more valuable.
Nir is the co-founder and CEO of Minerbi Classic
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