US DOE Reveals Blueprint to Spur Development of National Quantum Internet

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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has unveiled a blueprint strategy for the development of a national quantum internet. In a July 23 press conference at the University of Chicago, DOE representatives reaffirmed commitment to widening the nation’s quantum capabilities by relying on its 17 national laboratories to serve as the backbone of the coming quantum internet and the secure transmission of information.

“The Department of Energy is proud to play an instrumental role in the development of the national quantum internet,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette said. “By constructing this new and emerging technology, the United States continues with its commitment to maintain and expand our quantum capabilities.”

Among the distinct research objectives the report outlines are the building and subsequent integration of quantum networking devices, the perpetuation and routing of quantum information, and corrections to system errors.
Professor David Awschalom (center) works in his lab at the University of Chicago with graduate students Kevin Miao (left) and Alexandre Bourassa. Courtesy of Jean Lachat.
Professor David Awschalom (center) works in his lab at the University of Chicago with graduate students Kevin Miao (left) and Alexandre Bourassa. Courtesy of Jean Lachat.

The report additionally lists four goals, or milestones, necessary to putting the nationwide network in place: verifying secure quantum protocols over existing fiber networks; sending entangled information across campuses or cities; expanding the networks between cities; and expanding the networks between states using quantum repeaters to amplify signals.

The blueprint aims to serve as a pathway to ensure development of the National Quantum Initiative Act. President Trump signed the act into law in December 2018.

“The foundation of quantum networks rests on our ability to precisely synthesize and manipulate matter at the atomic scale, including the control of single photons,” said David Awschalom, Liew Family Professor in Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, and director of the Chicago Quantum Exchange.

“Our national laboratories house world-class facilities to image materials with subatomic resolution and state-of-the-art supercomputers to model their behavior,” Awschalom said. “These powerful resources are critical to accelerating progress in quantum information science and engineering, and to leading this rapidly evolving field in collaboration with academic and corporate partners.”

Earlier this year, scientists from DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Ill., and the University of Chicago entangled photons across a 52-mile “quantum loop” in the Chicago suburbs. The loop successfully established one of the nation’s longest land-based quantum networks. That network will soon be connected to DOE’s Fermilab in Batavia, Ill., establishing a three-node, 80-mile test bed.

“Argonne, Fermilab, and the University of Chicago have a long history of working together to accelerate technology that drives U.S. prosperity and security,” said Paul Kearns, director of Argonne. “We continue that tradition by tackling the challenges of establishing a national quantum internet, expanding our collaboration to tap into the vast power of American scientists and engineers around the country.”

“In addition to our collaboration with the University of Chicago, Fermilab is working with Argonne, Caltech, Northwestern University, and tech startups to develop the architecture and gradually deploy and connect quantum communication nodes across the city of Chicago. Before long, with this second group of collaborators, we will be teleporting data across a metropolitan network,” said Panagiotis Spentzouris, head of quantum programs at Fermilab. “This blueprint is important for telling us how we build this out nationwide.”

The report cites other national laboratories and institutions for advancing quantum networking and related technologies. These include Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University, which are working with the DOE’s Energy Sciences Network headquartered at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to establish an 80-mile quantum network test bed the partners are actively expanding in N.Y. and at Oak Ridge and Los Alamos National Laboratories.

Published: July 2020
The term quantum refers to the fundamental unit or discrete amount of a physical quantity involved in interactions at the atomic and subatomic scales. It originates from quantum theory, a branch of physics that emerged in the early 20th century to explain phenomena observed on very small scales, where classical physics fails to provide accurate explanations. In the context of quantum theory, several key concepts are associated with the term quantum: Quantum mechanics: This is the branch of...
DOEDepartment of EnergyChicagoUniversity of Chicagoquantum InternetNational Quantum InitiativeDavid AwschalomArgonne LaboratoryFermilabLawrence Berkeley National LaboratoryBrookhaven National LabOak Ridge National LaboratoryLos Alamosquantum communicationfiber opticsBusinessquantumCommunicationslight speed

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