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 We Are Drawing Nearer to the Quantum Internet, What is the fuss about?

You may be wondering what this is about if you are not a scientist familiar with quantum mechanics. The characteristics of matter and energy on the smallest reality scale are very different from the world we can see.

Portrait of Albert Einstein

Researchers' discoveries could be an important step in developing a new, much stronger Internet version in the next few decades. Instead of the bits that the present-day network uses, which can only express a value of 0 or 1, the future quantum internet would use quantum data qubits, taking an infinite number of values. (A qubit is the unit of information for a quantum model; it's like the bit in a regular computer).

This would afford the internet quantum mode a higher bandwidth, which would make it possible to associate super-powerful quantum devices and other gadgets to run huge applications that are not possible with the current internet we have.

Explaining the Quantum Internet

"The simplest way to understand quantum internet is through the concept of quantum teleportation," said Sumeet Khatri, a researcher at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. He and his colleagues wrote a paper on the possibility of a space-based quantum internet, in which satellites would continuously transmit tangled photons on the Earth's surface.

"Quantum teleportation is different from what a non-scientist's mind might evoke in terms of what they see in science fiction movies," says Khatri. "In this case, people exchange interwoven particles. The sender can send quantum information to a recipient (although it cannot be done quicker than the speed of light, a general misconception). This collection of common entanglement between pairs of people around the world is essentially the quantum internet. The research's central question is how best to distribute these tangled pairs to people around the world."

Once it is possible to do this on a large scale, the quantum internet would be so high-speed that distant clocks could be synchronized about a thousand times more accurately than the best atomic clocks available today. This would make GPS navigation much more accurate than today and map Earth's gravitational field so that scientists could properly observe gravitational waves. It could also make it possible to teleport photons from telescopes with visible light away from all over the Earth and connect them to a huge virtual observatory.

Challenges of Building the Quantum Internet

Scientists and technology experts need to draft a perfect scope of how to develop a quantum model, and given the oddity of this project, it won't be easy. "In a regular sphere, you can encrypt and save data, and it won't break down. In a quantum model, you encrypt data, and it starts decomposing instantly."

Another challenge is that because the level of energy that corresponds to quantum data is microscopic, it is difficult to prevent it from interacting with the outside world. Presently, "in many instances, quantum systems only operate at shallow temperatures," says Newell. "Another option is to operate it in a vacuum and let go of the air."

To create a quantum function of the Internet, says Newell, we will need all kinds of hardware that have not yet been developed. So it's hard to say at this very moment when a quantum internet would be up and running, although a Chinese scientist imagined it could happen immediately after 2030.

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