‘Quantum Internet’ Inches Closer With Advance in Data Teleportation

From Santa Barbara, Calif., To Hefei, China, scientists are developing a new type of computer that will make today’s machines look like toys.

Using the mysterious powers of quantum mechanics, technology will perform tasks in minutes that even supercomputers have not been able to accomplish in thousands of years. In the fall of 2019, Google unveiled an experimental quantum computer that demonstrated that this was possible. Two years later, a Chinese laboratory did the same.

But quantum computing will not reach its potential without the help of other technological advances. Call it the “Quantum Internet” – a computer network that can send quantum information between distant machines.

At Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, a team of physicists has taken a significant step toward this future computer network using a technology called quantum teleportation to send data to three physical locations. Previously, this was only possible with two.

The new experiment suggests that scientists could pull quantum networks into increasingly large numbers of sites. “We’re now building small quantum networks in the lab,” said Ronald Hanson, a Delft physicist who oversees the team. “But the idea is to eventually build a quantum Internet.”

His research is unveiled with a paper published this week in the science journal Nature, showing Albert Einstein the power of an event that was once considered impossible. Quantum teleportation – what it calls “spooky action at a distance” – can transfer information between places without actually moving the physical object it possesses.

This technology can profoundly change the way data travels from one place to another. It draws on more than a century of research involving quantum mechanics, a field of physics that governs the subatomic field and behaves contrary to everything we experience in our daily lives. Quantum teleportation not only transfers data between quantum computers, but also in a way that no one can stop it.

“This means that a quantum computer can solve your problem, but it doesn’t even know what the problem is,” said Tracy Eleanor Northup, a researcher at the Institute of Experimental Physics at the University of Innsbruck who is also exploring quantum teleportation. “It simply came to our notice then. Google knows what you’re running on its servers. “

Quantum computers strangely tap some objects if they are too small (such as electrons or particles of light) or too cold (such as a foreign metal cools to almost absolute zero or minus 460 degrees Fahrenheit). In these situations, one object behaves like two different objects at the same time.

Traditional computers perform calculations by processing “bits” of information, each containing 1 or 0. Using the quirky behavior of quantum mechanics, Quantum can store a combination of bit or qubit, 1 and 0 – a bit like how a rotating coin falls flat on the table with the potential to turn its head or tail.

This means that two qubits can hold four values ​​simultaneously, three qubits can hold eight, four can hold 16 and so on. As the number of cubits increases, quantum computers quickly become more powerful.

Researchers believe that these devices could one day speed up the development of new drugs, make power advances in artificial intelligence and, in short, crack encryption that protects computers critical to national security. Worldwide, governments, educational laboratories, start-ups and tech giants are spending billions of dollars exploring technology.

In 2019, Google announced that its machine had reached what scientists call “quantum supremacy,” meaning that it could perform experimental tasks that were impossible with conventional computers. But most experts believe that a quantum computer can actually do something useful that you can’t do with another machine before – at least – many years will pass.

Part of the challenge is that if you read information from it the qubit breaks down, or “decorates” – it becomes a normal bit that can only hold 0 or 1 but not both. But by combining many cubits together and developing ways to protect against decoherence, scientists hope to create machines that are both powerful and practical.

Ultimately, ideally, this would be connected to networks that could send information between nodes, allowing them to be used from anywhere, just as cloud computing services like Google and Amazon make processing power widely accessible today.

But this comes with its own problems. Due in part to decoherence, quantum information simply cannot be copied and transmitted over a conventional network. Provides a quantum teleportation option.

Although it cannot move objects from one place to another, it can move information by taking advantage of a quantum property called “entanglement”: a change in the position of one quantum system immediately affects another, distant state.

“Once trapped, you can no longer describe these states individually,” said Dr. Northup said. “Basically, it’s a system now.”

These trapped systems can be electrons, particles of light or other objects. In the Netherlands, Dr. Hanson and his team used the Nitrogen Vacancy Center – a small empty space in a synthetic diamond in which electrons could be trapped.

The team created three of these quantum systems, named Alice, Bob and Charlie, and connected them in a line with strands of optical fiber. Scientists can then trap these systems by sending individual photons – particles of light – between them.

First, the researchers trapped two electrons – one for Alice and the other for Bob. In effect, electrons were given equal spins, and thus they were joined in a common quantum state, or trapped, each storing the same information: a precise combination of 1 and 0.

Researchers could then transfer this quantum state to another cubit, the carbon nucleus, inside Bob’s synthetic diamond. Doing so frees Bob’s electron and allows researchers to trap him along with Charlie’s other electrons.

By performing a specific quantum operation on both of Bob’s cubits – the electron and the carbon nucleus – researchers could then glue the two entanglements together: Alice and Bob were glued together with Bob and Charlie.

Result: Alice was trapped with Charlie, who allowed data to be teleported to all three nodes.

When data travels this way, without actually traveling the distance between the nodes, it cannot be lost. Dr. Said Hansen.

Information also cannot be withheld. The future of Quantum Internet, powered by Quantum Teleportation, could provide a new kind of encryption that is theoretically unbreakable.

In the new experiment, the network nodes were not so far apart – only 60 feet. But previous experiments have shown that quantum systems can be trapped over long distances.

The hope is that, after many more years of research, quantum teleportation will be capable of many miles. “We’re trying to do this outside of the lab now,” he said. Said Hansen.

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