Scientists all across the world, from Santa Barbara, California, to Hefei, China, are hard at work inventing a new sort of computer that will make the computers of today appear like children’s playthings.
The technology will execute tasks in minutes that even the most powerful supercomputers have not been able to finish in thousands of years. It will do this by harnessing the enigmatic forces of quantum physics. Google presented an experimental quantum computer in the autumn of 2019, demonstrating that such a thing was indeed conceivable. Two years after that, a laboratory in China carried out much the same experiment.
Quantum computing, on the other hand, won’t be able to live up to its full potential until another technical breakthrough is made. It’s been dubbed the “quantum internet” since it’s a computer network that can transmit quantum information between devices located in different locations.
A group of physicists working at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have taken a significant step toward creating the computer network of the future. They did this by employing a method referred to as quantum teleportation in order to send data between three different physical locations. In the past, this might have been accomplished with simply two.
Their findings, which was presented this week in a report that was published in the scientific magazine Nature, illustrates the potency of a phenomena that Albert Einstein previously believed to be impossible. Quantum teleportation, which he referred to as “spooky action at a distance,” makes it possible to move information from one point to another without actually transferring the physical stuff that stores the information.
This technology has the potential to radically alter the transmission of data from one location to another. Quantum mechanics is a branch of physics that rules the subatomic world and operates in a way that is unlike anything that we encounter in our daily lives. This theory is based on more than a century of study concerning quantum mechanics. Not only may data be sent between quantum computers via quantum teleportation, but this process is carried out in a manner that prevents any third party from eavesdropping on it.
Traditional computers carry out computations by processing “bits” of information, where each bit may store either a 1 or a 0, and each bit can be either one or the other. A quantum bit, also known as a qubit, is able to store a combination of 1 and 0 by taking advantage of the peculiar behaviour of quantum mechanics. This is analogous to the way in which a spinning coin offers the tantalising possibility that it will land with either heads or tails when it finally comes to rest on the table.
In 2019, Google made the announcement that their machine has achieved what scientists refer to as “quantum supremacy.” This meant that it was able to complete an experimental challenge that was previously unattainable with conventional computers. The vast majority of industry professionals, however, are of the opinion that it will be at least a few more years before a quantum computer will be able to do anything valuable that can’t be done with any other kind of machine.
One of the difficulties stems from the fact that reading information from a qubit causes it to “decohere,” which means it transforms into a conventional bit that can store either a 0 or a 1, but not both at the same time. However, if scientists are successful in stringing together a large number of qubits and inventing methods to protect against decoherence, they should be able to construct machines that are not just powerful but also useful.
In the end, and ideally, these would be connected into networks that can send information between nodes, making it possible for them to be used from any location. This is analogous to how cloud computing services, such as those offered by companies like Google and Amazon, make processing power widely accessible today.
However, this presents its own set of challenges. Quantum information cannot simply be replicated and sent via a conventional network, in part because doing so would lead the information to lose its coherence. There is also the possibility of using quantum teleportation.
Despite the fact that it is unable to transport physical items from one location to another, it is able to move information by making use of a quantum phenomenon known as “entanglement”: A modification to the state of one quantum system instantly impacts the state of another quantum system that is located far away.
Additionally, there is no way to stealthily intercept the information. It is possible that a future internet driven by quantum teleportation would be able to deliver a new kind of encryption that is, in theory, impossible to crack.
In the latest experiment, the nodes of the network were spaced quite close together, at around 60 feet apart on average. However, results from earlier experiments have shown that quantum systems may be entangled at greater distances.
After a number of further years of study, it is hoped that quantum teleportation will be practical at a distance of several kilometres. Dr. Hanson said that they are now attempting to carry out their research outside of the laboratory.