From Santa Barbara, California, to Hefei, China, scientists are developing a new type of computer that makes today’s machines more like games.
By harnessing the mysterious powers of quantum mechanics, the technology will perform tasks in minutes that even supercomputers have not been able to complete for thousands of years. In the fall of 2019, Google unveiled a file experimental quantum computer It turns out that this was possible. Two years later, laboratory in China do the same.
But quantum computing wouldn’t reach its potential without the help of another technological breakthrough. He called it the “quantum internet” – a computer network that can send quantum information between remote machines.
At Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, a team of physicists has taken an important step toward such a computer network of the future, using a technique called quantum teleportation to send data across three physical locations. Previously, this was possible with only two.
The new experiment indicates that scientists can extend a quantum network across an increasing number of sites. “We are now building small quantum networks in the lab,” said Ronald Hanson, a Delft physicist who leads the team. “But the idea is to eventually build a quantum internet.”
Their research was revealed this week with Research paper published in the scientific journal Nature, demonstrates the power of a phenomenon that Albert Einstein considered impossible. Quantum teleportation – what is it calledremote work scary“Information can be transferred between sites without transferring the physical material it contains.
This technology could profoundly change the way data travels from one place to another. It is based on more than a century of research involving quantum mechanics, a field of physics that governs the subatomic world and behaves unlike anything we experience in our daily lives. Quantum teleportation not only transmits data between quantum computers, but it also does so in a way that no one can intercept.
“Not only does this mean that a quantum computer can solve your problem, but it also doesn’t know what the problem is,” said Tracy Eleanor Northup, a researcher at the Institute of Experimental Physics at the University of Innsbruck who also explores quantum teleportation. “It doesn’t work that way today. Google knows what you’re running on its servers.”
A quantum computer clicks on the strange ways some things behave if they are very small (like an electron or a particle of light) or extremely cold (like a strange metal being cooled to nearly absolute zero, or minus 460 degrees Fahrenheit). In these cases, a single object can behave like two separate objects at the same time.
Traditional computers perform calculations by processing “bits” of information, with each bit containing either a 1 or a 0. Harnessing the peculiar behavior of quantum mechanics, a quantum bit, or qubit, can store a combination of 1 and 0 — a bit like how A spinning coin holds the tantalizing possibility that it will either appear as a head or a tail when it finally falls on the table.
This means that two qubits can hold four values at once, three qubits can hold eight, four can hold 16 and so on. As the number of quantum qubits grows, a quantum computer becomes more and more powerful.
Researchers believe these devices could one day speed up the creation of new drugs, making energy advances in artificial intelligence and Hacking encryption that protects computers vital to national security. All over the world, governments, academic labs, startups, and tech giants are spending billions of dollars exploring technology.
In 2019, Google announce That its hardware has reached what scientists call “quantum supremacy,” meaning it can perform an experimental task that was impossible with conventional computers. But most experts believe it will be at least several more years before a quantum computer can do something useful that you can’t do with another machine.
Part of the challenge is that a qubit breaks, or ‘disassembles’, if you read information from it – it becomes a regular bit capable of holding only 0 or 1 but not both. But by linking many qubits together and developing ways to guard against decoherence, scientists hope to build powerful yet practical machines.
Ultimately, ideally, these networks would be joined to networks that can send information between nodes, allowing it to be used from anywhere, just as cloud computing services from the likes of Google and Amazon make processing power widely available today.
But this comes with its own problems. Partly because of decoherence, quantum information cannot be copied and transmitted over a traditional network. Quantum teleportation provides an alternative.
Although it cannot move objects from one place to another, it can transfer information by taking advantage of a quantum property called “entanglement”: any change in the state of a quantum system that immediately affects the state of another system that is far away.
“After the crossover, you can no longer describe these conditions individually,” said Dr. Northup. “Essentially, it is now one system.”
These entangled systems can be electrons, light particles, or other things. In the Netherlands, Dr. Hanson and his team used what’s called a vacant nitrogen center – a small empty space in synthetic diamond where electrons can be trapped.
The team built three of these quantum systems, named Alice, Bob, and Charlie, and tied them in a line with fiber-optic strands. Scientists can then entangle these systems by sending individual photons – particles of light – between them.
First, the researchers entangled two electrons — one belonging to Alice and the other to Bob. In fact, the electrons were given the same spin, and thus were joined or entangled, in a common quantum state, each storing the same information: a certain combination of 1 and 0.
The researchers can then transfer this quantum state to another qubit, the carbon nucleus, within Bob’s synthetic diamond. Doing so freed Bob’s electron, and the researchers could then link it to another electron belonging to Charlie.
By performing a specific quantum operation on each of Bob’s qubits – the electron and the carbon nucleus – the researchers can then glue the two entanglements together: Alice and Bob are glued to Bob and Charlie.
The result: Alice was entangled with Charlie, allowing data to teleport instantly through all three nodes.
When data travels this way, without actually traveling the distance between nodes, it cannot be lost. “Information can be entered on one side of the connection and then shown on the other,” Dr. Hanson said.
The information also cannot be intercepted. The quantum Internet of the future, powered by quantum teleportation, could provide a new type of theoretically unbreakable cryptography.
In the new experiment, the network’s nodes weren’t far apart — only about 60 feet. But previous experiments have shown that quantum systems can get entangled over longer distances.
The hope is that after several more years of research, quantum teleportation will be viable across many miles. “We’re now trying to do it outside of the lab,” Dr. Hanson said.
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