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There's no shortage of scientists waiting to get their hands on quantum computers. Cryptographers, in particular, are licking their lips in anticipation.

But there's another group who are already beginning to benefit from the first few iterations of quantum computing devices: chemists.

Various scientists have pointed out that it is possible to study the properties of a particular quantum system using another controllable quantum system.

This kind of quantum simulation has huge implications for chemistry. No longer would it be necessary to mess around with real atoms, ions and molecules in messy experiments with test tubes and bunsen burners.

Instead it ought to be possible to perfectly simulate what goes on using a quantum computer set up in the right way. That's the theory anyway. The practice is inevitably more tricky.

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Category: Science