Science 3 min read

Army Breakthrough Brings Quantum Internet a Step Closer to Reality

U.S. Army scientists successfully transfered quantum entanglement between matter and light, bringing quantum internet a step closer to reality.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Thanks to a recent U.S. Army breakthrough, quantum internet is a step closer to reality.

Don’t let the fancy name fool you; quantum internet is not some futuristic new way to navigate the web. In fact, it won’t look any different from the internet you’re using right now.

But, cryptographers and scientists believe it could protect us against current threats and those that do not yet exist. Such an internet would offer the military sensing and timekeeping capabilities that would otherwise be impossible on the current version.

Well, recent research just took us one step closer to a quantum internet.

Under the supervision and funding of the Army Research Office, researchers at the University of Innsbruck have managed to transfer quantum entanglement between matter and light. What’s more, they did this over a distance of 50,000 meters using fiber optic cables.

Here is why this is a big deal.

Entanglement means two particles are irrevocably linked. It refers to a correlation that can be created between quantum entities such as qubits. That means two entangled qubits will influence the outcome of each other’s measurement, even when the qubits are not within a close distance.

In a statement, an experimental physicist at the University of Innsbruck and principal investigator for the project, Dr. Ben Lanyon said:

“This [50 kilometers] is two orders of magnitude further than was previously possible and is a practical distance to start building intercity quantum networks.”

The intercity quantum networks would consist of distant, yet entangled nodes of physical qubits, which is essential for establishing a quantum internet, the researcher said.

A Calcium Atom Experiment

For the project, the researchers experimented with a calcium atom that’s in an ion trap. They used laser beams to write a quantum state onto the ion, and also excite it to emit a photon, in which quantum information is stored.

The result of this experiment was an entangled quantum state of both the atom and light particles. Then came the big challenge – transmitting the photon over fiber optic cables.

Why is this an issue, you wonder?

Well, according to Dr. Lanyon, the calcium ion emitted a photon with a wavelength of 854 nanometers, which the optical fiber quickly absorbs.

To address this issue, the team had initially sent the light particle through a nonlinear crystal illuminated by a strong laser.

This process converts the photon wavelength into the optimal value for long-distance travel. That’s the current telecommunication standard wavelength of 1,550 nanometers.

Similarly, the researchers sent this photon through the optical line that’s 50,000 meters long. Based on their measurement, the atom and light particles remained entangled, despite the distance traveled and after the wavelength conversion.

How Quantum Internet Can Augment Present/Future Communications Technologies

As said earlier, quantum internet offers one significant advantage of the current network, and that’s security. It provides capabilities for high security and quantum teleportation.

As a result, information that affects our daily lives, such as banking information and emails, will no longer be stolen online. Quantum internet will resolve these interception issues.

Thanks to various researchers, including Dr. Lanyon’s, this future is closer than we imagined.

In a statement, co-manager of the Army program supporting the research, Dr. Sara Gamble said:

“The demonstration is a major step forward for achieving large scale distributed entanglement. The quality of the entanglement after traveling through the fiber is also high enough at the other end to meet some of the requirements for some of the most difficult quantum networking applications.”

Read More: Is the Quantum Internet Terrorist-Proof?

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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