The Quantum Internet, Explained

The Quantum Internet, Explained

Scientists believe it will be especially useful for problems that involve many variables, such as analyzing financial risk, encrypting data, and studying the properties of materials.

Researchers doubt that individuals will own personal quantum computers in the near future. Instead, they will be hosted at academic institutions and private companies where they will be accessible through a cloud service.

How does the quantum internet work?

Quantum computers use fundamental units of information similar to the bits used in classical computing. These are called “qubits”.

However, unlike conventional computer bits, which transmit information as 0s or 1s, qubits transmit information through a combination of quantum states, which are unique conditions found only at the scale. subatomic.

For example, a quantum state that could be used to encode information is a property called “spin”, which is the intrinsic angular momentum of an electron. Spin can be thought of as a small compass needle that points up or down. Researchers can manipulate this needle to encode information into the electrons themselves, much like they would with conventional bits, but in this case the information is encoded into a combination of possible states. Qubits are neither 0 nor 1, but rather both and neither, in a quantum phenomenon called superposition.

This allows quantum computers to process information in a totally different way than their conventional counterparts, and so they can solve certain kinds of problems that would take even the largest supercomputers decades. These are problems like factoring large numbers or solving complex logistics calculations (see the traveling salesman problem). Quantum computers would be particularly useful for cryptography as well as for discovering new types of pharmaceutical drugs or new materials for solar cells, batteries or other technologies.

But to unlock this potential, a quantum computer must be able to process a large number of qubits, more than any machine can handle today. That is, unless multiple quantum computers can be linked through the quantum internet and their computing power pooled, creating a much more capable system.

There are several different types of qubits in development, and each has distinct advantages and disadvantages. The most commonly studied qubits today are quantum dots, ion traps, superconducting circuits, and spin-defective qubits.

What can the quantum internet do?

Like many scientific advances, we won’t understand all that the Quantum Internet can do until it’s fully developed.

Sixty years ago, few could imagine that a handful of interconnected computers would one day spawn the sprawling digital landscape we know today. The quantum internet presents a similar unknown, but a number of applications have been theorized and some have already been demonstrated.

    Thanks to the unique quantum properties of qubits, scientists believe the quantum internet will dramatically improve information security, making it nearly impossible to intercept and decrypt quantum encrypted messages. Quantum Key Distribution, or QKD, is a process by which two parties share a cryptographic key over a quantum network that cannot be intercepted. Several private companies already offer the process, and it has even been used to secure national elections.

    At the same time, quantum computers pose a threat to traditional encrypted communication. RSA, the current standard for protecting sensitive digital information, is nearly impossible for modern computers to crack; however, quantum computers with sufficient processing power could outrun RSA encryption in minutes or seconds.

    A fully realized quantum network could significantly improve the accuracy of scientific instruments used to study certain phenomena. The impact of such a network would be far-reaching, but initial interest has focused on black hole gravitational waves, microscopy, and electromagnetic imaging.

    Creating a purely quantum internet would also relieve the need for quantum information to transition between classical and quantum systems, which is a huge barrier in current systems. Instead, it would allow a collection of individual quantum computers to process information like a single conglomerate machine, giving them computing power far beyond what a single system could command alone.

“The quantum internet represents a paradigm shift in how we think about secure global communication,” said David Awschalom, Liew Family Professor of Molecular Engineering and Physics at the University of Chicago, director of the Chicago Quantum Exchange. and director of Q-NEXT. , a Department of Energy Quantum Information Science Center at Argonne. “Being able to create a tangled network of quantum computers would allow us to send encrypted messages that are impossible to hack, keep technology in perfect sync over long distances using quantum clocks, and solve complex problems with which a quantum computer could struggle on its own – and these are just some of the applications we know of today.The future is likely to hold surprising and impactful discoveries using quantum networks.

How far away is the quantum internet?

To date, no one has succeeded in creating a large-scale, sustained quantum network, but major advances have been made.

In 2017, researchers at the University of Science and Technology of China used lasers to successfully transmit entangled photons between an orbiting satellite and ground stations more than 700 miles below. The experiment showed the possibility of using satellites to become part of a quantum network, but the system was only able to recover one out of 6 million photons, too few to be used for reliable communication.

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