The Quantum Internet Is Fast Approaching, But What Is It?

The Quantum Internet Is Fast 
Approaching, But What Is It?

Earlier in February 2020, American scientists The University of Chicago and the Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory announced that they had accomplished quantum entanglement over a 52-mile quantum-loop network in the Chicago suburbs. This is when the behavior of a pair of tiny particles becomes linked, making their states identical. If you're not a scientist knowledgeable with quantum mechanics, which describes the behavior of matter and energy at the lowest scale of reality and is noticeably different from the world we can see around us, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about.

However, the researchers' achievement might mark a crucial turning point in the creation of a brand-new, incredibly potent internet in the coming years. Future quantum networks would use qubits of quantum information, which have an infinite range of possible values, in place of the bits now used, which can only convey a value of 0 or 1. The informational building block of a quantum computer is a quibit, which is comparable to a bit in a conventional computer.

That would significantly increase the quantum internet's bandwidth, enabling it to connect extremely potent quantum computers and other devices and conduct extremely large-scale applications that are now not feasible on the current internet. According to David Awschalom, "a quantum internet will be the foundation of a quantum ecosystem, where computers, networks, and sensors share information in a fundamentally novel manner where sensing, communication, and computing literally function together as one thing." He is a senior scientist at Argonne who oversaw the quantum-loop research and a professor of spintronics and quantum information at the University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering.

What's In It For Me?

So what does it accomplish and why do we need it? First off, the quantum internet does not take the place of the current normal internet. Instead, it would be an addition to it or a subset of it. It could solve a few of the issues that are plaguing the existing internet. For instance, a quantum internet would provide far better security against hackers and fraudsters. Currently, if Alice in New York sends a message to Bob in California via the internet, the message moves from one coast to the other in a very straight line. The message's transmission signals deteriorate along the journey; repeaters read the signals, amplify them, and fix any mistakes. However, using this method enables hackers to "break in" and steal the message.

A quantum message wouldn't have that issue, though. In quantum networks, messages are sent using photons, light particles that are immune to cyberattacks. We would rely on the unusual laws of quantum physics, says Ray Newell, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, rather than encrypting a message using mathematical complexity. In fact, Wired magazine stated that even attempting to intercept a communication ruins it since "you can't replicate it, cut it in half, and you can't even look at it without modifying it." This would make it possible to use encryption that is much more secure than what is currently available.

According to Sumeet Khatri, a researcher at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, "the concept of quantum teleportation is the easiest approach to explain the concept of the quantum internet. According to this Technology Review article, he and colleagues have written a paper discussing the viability of a satellite-based quantum internet that would continuously transmit entangled photons down to Earth's surface. According to Khatri, quantum teleportation differs from the images that sci-fi movies could inspire in the minds of non-scientists. This collection of shared entanglement between pairs of people all over the world effectively constitutes the quantum internet. The central research question is how to distribute these entangled pairs to people distributed all over the world. "In quantum teleportation, two people who want to communicate share a pair of quantum particles that are entangled. Then, through a sequence of operations, the sender can send any quantum information to the receiver.

According to Cosmos magazine, once that is feasible on a big scale, the quantum internet will be so astoundingly fast that distant clocks can be synced with a thousand times greater accuracy than the greatest atomic clocks currently in use. By doing so, scientists might record the Earth's gravitational field in great detail and significantly improve GPS navigation's accuracy compared to what it is today. Additionally, it might enable the connection of far-off visible-light telescopes on Earth to form a massive virtual observatory by teleporting photons from those instruments. According to Nicholas Peters, group leader of the Quantum Information Science Group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, "You might be able to see planets surrounding distant stars."

Additionally, networks of extremely potent quantum computers could collaborate globally to build incredibly intricate simulations. That might make it possible for scientists to create and test new treatments as well as better understand the behavior of molecules and proteins, for instance. It might also aid scientists in unraveling some of reality's long-standing puzzles. According to Newell, "We don't have a complete picture of how the universe functions." The image is murky where quantum mechanics crosses with our everyday experience, even though we have a pretty strong understanding of how it operates.

What are the Challenges of Building the Quantum Internet?

But before any of that can happen, scientists must figure out how to create a quantum internet, which won't be simple given the peculiarities of quantum mechanics. According to Peters, information can be encoded and saved in the "classical world" without degrading. "In the quantum realm, you encode information and it starts to decay almost instantly. " Another issue is that it's challenging to prevent quantum information from interacting with the outside world because the energy associated with it is so low. According to Newell, quantum technologies nowadays "often only operate at very low temperatures." Another option is to pump out all the air and work in a vacuum. According to Newell, we'll need a variety of yet-undeveloped devices to enable a quantum internet. Therefore, it's difficult to predict with certainty when a quantum internet will be operational, however, one Chinese expert has said that it might happen as soon as 2030.