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quantum internet

Contributor(s): Laura Fitzgibbons

The quantum internet is a theoretical system of interconnected quantum computers that uses quantum signals to send information rather than radio waves. If implemented, the quantum internet is intended to eventually complement the current system of interconnected computers that share information through classical computing means, such as over standard communication protocols that physically connect networks over geographical space.

While still in the developmental phase, the quantum internet could have major implications in a wide range of fields. The quantum internet would most likely become a specialized branch of the classic internet, making it a solution for very specialized applications. Scientists could connect to advanced quantum computers remotely or link up machines within a lab in order to simulate quantum physics experiments. Government agencies could use quantum internet technology to advance more strategic election processes, where voters could superimpose combinations. The quantum internet would also be superior in sending information securely through quantum encryption or cryptography.

Key features of quantum theory applied to the quantum internet

The proposed quantum internet is based on quantum computing, a type of computing based on the major tenets of quantum theory.

  • Quantum computing- Quantum computing is a viable technology with various real world applications in use by different academic and private organizations, such as IBM Q Experience and MIT. It involves the sharing of information at atomic and subatomic levels through quantum channels. Compared to classical computing, it can share information at infinitely higher rates and with vastly fewer limitations. It is also a great deal more secure than classical computing.
  • Qubits- A quantum internet would allow computers to share quantum information between quantum computers, also called qubits. A qubit cannot be interpreted with standard hardware and it cannot be copied or destroyed. It serves a similar purpose in quantum computing to a binary character in traditional computing. The number of qubits in a particular quantum system also determines its processing power. For instance, a quantum computer can have 5-qubit processing power.
  • Superposition- There is no way to broadcast qubits. Instead, quantum information needs to be shared via two quantum processes, quantum superposition and quantum entanglement. Superposition is a unique occurrence in which a quantum system can occupy many states at once. In traditional computing, a computer can only ever be in a single state at one time. For particles in the instance of quantum computing, this can mean a particle splitting, in a sense, and becoming duplicated but identical, or effectively existing in two places at the same time.
  • Entanglement- Entanglement is a phenomenon in quantum theory where two particles of matter or energy are connected and behave similarly, even when they are separated by a great distance. This process is a necessary part of teleportation theory and other advanced technologies. Due to the fact information shared by quantum entanglement does not need to travel a physical distance between the particles, it has incredible implications for computing, because changes made to one can be instantaneously applied to another, making processing power or even speed obsolete. This could theoretically also mean the disappearance of unfriendly interception of information, creating opportunities for secure cryptography.
  • Quantum infrastructure- In order to hold information, quantum computers must be kept at extremely low temperatures. In some cases qubits are stored within superconducting wire that is held in a refrigerator with temperatures as low as absolute zero, or the lowest measurable temperature.
This was last updated in January 2019

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