Quantum Internet; Worldwide Race for Unhackable Internet
Singapore, the Netherlands, Canada, USA and India have all been recently noted as making technological advances towards Quantum internet, research in this field is an important step in establishing a quantum internet of the future, which would revolutionize the fields of secure communication and data storage, among other areas. Quantum computers have the ability to break encryption codes in seconds, putting the internet at risk of being hacked very easily. With the use of quantum cryptography, (using the quantum properties of light particles) an unbreakable cryptographic algorithm can be created that will allow secure satellite or fiber broadband communications, which is especially important amongst the rising innovation and development in quantum computers. Essentially, quantum networks would allow for information to be created, stored, and transmitted securely, at a new level of privacy and security that is impossible to achieve with today’s Internet. Currently, there is no network connecting quantum processors, or quantum repeaters that are deployed outside of a lab, although there are many communication prototypes.
In a quantum internet, information stored in qubits (the quantum equivalent of computer bits) is shuttled, or teleported, over long distances through entanglement, a phenomenon that enables quantum-mechanically connected particles to experience related changes to their respective energy states even across large distances. A key feature of quantum networks is their fidelity, or the quality of teleportation, which characterizes how close the teleported qubit is to the original. In the study conducted at Caltech and Fermilab, where researchers have established two test beds using state-of-the-art quantum devices to accurately teleport quantum information for a prolonged period of time across a distance of 44 kilometers, quantum teleportation was performed with a fidelity of more than 90%. Maria Spiropulu, the director of the research program as well as the professor of physics at Caltech stated that “high fidelity is important especially in the case of quantum networks designed to connect advanced quantum devices, including quantum sensors". Spiropulu also noted the achievement in stating that “We are very proud to have achieved this milestone on sustainable, high-performing, and scalable quantum teleportation systems”.
Julien Laurat, a professor and leader of the quantum networks team at the Kastler Brossel Laboratory at Sorbonne University in France, commented on a recently published paper that aims at boosting storage-and-retrieval efficiency, which will lead the way in connecting quantum internet nodes, where efficiencies in storing and retrieving entanglement have previously been stagnated at around 25%, Laurat noted that “We learned in this work [how] to achieve this 85-90 percent [efficiency] benchmark,” “This is the best in any physical platform.”
Global research is being actively conducted to boost the future possibilities of a quantum internet, but the next challenge will be to successfully run quantum networks from large distances. Filip Rozpedek, a postdoctoral associate researching quantum communication at the University of Chicago reiterates this point, noting that the ability to demonstrate high transfer efficiency between quantum memory devices that are separated by a large distance and with longer storage time. Laurat has already noted and begun working on these milestones, the French university even envision advances that will make a cross-European quantum network possible within the next 5-10 years, stating that “The next few years should see demonstrations over a few tens of kilometers”.
Huge investments are seen across the globe, most recently it was announced that Singapore has a $25 billion research fund for plans over the next five years to create new economic opportunities for the nation post-coronavirus.