Scientists are planning to create a network in the Chicago area tapping the principles of quantum physics. The idea is to prove that quantum physics could provide the basis for an unhackable internet.
This, they say, could have wide-ranging impact on communications, computing and national security.
The quantum network development, supported by the US Department of Energy (DOE), will stretch between the DOE's Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Acceleratory Laboratory, a connection that is said will be the longest in the world to send secure information using quantum physics.
The experiment will 'teleport' information across a 30-mile distance, as particles change their quantum states instantaneously rather than traveling between two points.
"This project launches the construction of a communications network based on the quantum states of matter, offering a fundamentally new way to create and securely send information," said David Awschalom, an Argonne scientist and the Liew Family Professor of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago.
"We will build a national testbed to develop the science for engineering quantum systems and explore the properties of quantum entanglement, a phenomenon that's fascinated scientists and the general public alike."
The scientists believe that a quantum system could be virtually unhackable because, if someone tries to look at a transmission, it would be disturbed, the information destroyed, and the senders alerted.
The way the quantum network works is by 'entangling' particles, another quirk of quantum mechanics that suggests that you can link two (or more) particles so that they are in a shared state - and whatever happens to one affects the other, even if they're miles apart at the time.
Thus, if scientists share an entangled pair of particles between two locations, the quantum information can get across, even if the locations are far apart and they don't have a physical connection between them. While the quantum information has been 'teleported', no object is being transported.
"Performing information teleportation across real-world distances many miles apart allows us to identify practical problems involved in operating a quantum network - what are the technological challenges, how secure is the communication, and what are the limits to transporting information in this manner," Awschalom added.
It's not the first effort at building a secure network based on the principles of quantum physics. In January this year, scientists in China revealed that they are testing a satellite quantum key distribution network; while in the same month, an 'unhackable' satellite was used to host a completely secure video conference.
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