A major breakthrough has been made at TU Delft. Researchers have succeeded in making a well-functioning quantum connection that can be used for a future form of the internet. That is a bit complicated, but let’s keep it simple. Quantum connection runs on the idea that – for reasons that nobody understands, even though it does work – there is a connection between two quantum particles. That is called quantum entanglement, or entanglement. Again: how that works is unclear, but it works.
How does quantum internet work?
That is therefore bizarre, but it also means that you can send data through that system. After that entanglement between the particles is established, two light particles are released that are also entangled. Then you can move one of the two light particles in all sorts of ways, because sending light, we could already do that. It is possible through our fiber optic connection, but it can also be radiated via satellite. That is even better, because at the moment there is noise when you move the particles through fiber and it does not come that far.
And now comes the trick: that quantum state of those particles has the remarkable property that if you do something with it (like looking at it, or copying the particle) the particle changes. So you can check if a particle arrives or if it has been sent undisturbed and you can be sure that no one has seen the ‘data’. This makes it virtually impossible to intercept and that would mean that in any case no data can be intercepted between sender and receiver.
What did TU Delft do then?
Research into these quantum particles is already underway in various countries and laboratories, but TU Delft has now made a big step in entangling the particles. That was still in the heavily experimental phase and it took forever (especially in internet terms) to intertwine two particles. A new technique now makes it possible to entangle a particle up to forty times per second and then you are at a speed that you can really start testing with quantum internet.
Of course that is the next thing they will do, so a connection is now being established between Amsterdam, Delft, Leiden and The Hague. It should be functional by 2020. In the four cities a kind of extremely strong fridges will be put down which are needed to intertwine particles and these will then be connected to the regular optical fiber network. That is where the interlaced light particles go through and if that all works according to plan, there is a start of the quantum internet.
Hopefully they are the first. Indeed, researchers at MIT and in a lab in China are also quite far behind. There was also a demonstration earlier of sending quantum particles via satellite by a Chinese party. Satellites are extra interesting, because the noise that occurs when sending the light particles does not occur in the vacuum of the room. Quantum entanglement has tremendous potential, but for now it would be a feast if we can stably and consistently set up this form of communication and with a bit of luck this will soon be the first in the Netherlands.
QuTech needs great students with the drive and talent to help us accelerate the effort to build a quantum computer and a large-scale quantum Internet. Join us at the QuTech Academy: http://qutech.nl/edu/
MOOC Quantum Computers and Internet
There is no doubt that quantum computers and the quantum internet will have a great impact on our world. But we don’t yet know quite how. As with traditional computers – we will only see the effects in the decades to come. Starting 20 March, you can learn all about this in the new online course ‘Quantum Computers and Quantum Internet: How can they change the world?’. Enrol now via EdX.org.
This course will provide you with a basic understanding of quantum computing and the quantum internet. You will peek into the fascinating world of quantum phenomena, such as qubits, superposition and entanglement.
QuTech’s top scientists Menno Veldhorst, Stephanie Wehner and Lieven Vandersypen will introduce to you the potential impact of quantum computing and the quantum internet. You will explore various application areas, such as quantum chemistry, quantum machine learning, encryption and secure communication, factorisation and blind quantum computation.
The course is aimed at a broad and diverse audience including policy-makers, people with a scientific or personal interest, business executives and students at all levels.
The goal of a quantum internet is to connect quantum processors using long distance quantum communication. The internet has had a revolutionary impact on our world. The long-term vision of this talk is to build a matching quantum internet that will operate in parallel to the internet we have today. This quantum internet will enable long-range quantum communication in order to achieve unparalleled capabilities that are provably impossible using only classical means. Stephanie starts by exploring what a quantum internet is good for, and gives an intuition why quantum communication is so powerful. She proceeds from the state of the art today, towards stages for a full blown quantum internet. As an example, she discusses the efforts of the EU quantum internet alliance including the planned demonstration network connecting four Dutch cities in 2020. Stephanie Wehner is an Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Professor at QuTech, Delft University of Technology, where she leads the Quantum Internet efforts. Her passion is the theory of quantum information in all its facets, and she has written numerous scientific articles in both physics and computer science. In a former life, she worked as a professional hacker in industry. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.