Chicago scientists are testing an unhackable quantum internet in their basement

Chicago scientists are testing an “impractical” quantum internet in their college basement closet that could one day form the basis of a new internet.

Currently, computers exchange information in the form of electronic or optical pulses that represent either a zero or a one.

But in quantum technology, scientists use photons – particles of light – to transfer information which may contain a combination of zeros and ones.

The method is impossible to hack because the particles corrupt when intercepted, attracting interest from banks and healthcare companies.

Yet scientists have yet to find a way to send them long distances, as tiny glass impurities in the cables also cause them to broadcast information.

In Chicago, researchers are working on a machine that could be placed in various places along cables and read and transfer the information they carry to increase the distance traveled.

The United States, China and the European Union are all in a race to become the first nations to use quantum computing.

The above shows the quantum computer built in the LL211A closet at the University of Chicago. It sends quantum particles to labs on the outskirts of town to test the new system

Dr. David Awschalom, expert in molecular engineering

An area of ​​the University of Chicago lab where they are building devices to transfer the particles

Molecular engineering expert Dr. David Awschalom and his team at the University of Chicago are working on devices that could “boost” particle transfer. Pictured right is a research station in their lab

Above are some of the machines in the lab.  One of the devices (left) that makes a blast noise has had the face of Thomas the Tank Engine stuck on it

Above are some of the machines in the lab. One of the devices (left) that makes a blast noise has had the face of Thomas the Tank Engine stuck on it

University of Chicago scientists built their quantum computer in a three-foot-wide college basement dubbed LL211A, the Washington Post reports.

It looks like a place where brooms would be stored, if it weren’t for all the wires and hard drives piled inside.

The quantum computer in the closet was then hooked up to other quantum machines at Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi Accelerator National Laboratory up to 40 miles away.

During testing, information-laden photons are sent via cables to the Argonne lab carrying encryption keys.

At the other end, the data is then extracted to establish if all the information has been transferred without any changes.

But the researchers are struggling to make the system work, with the photons constantly changing as they pass through the glass impurities in the cables.

Dr. David Awschalom, an expert in molecular engineering, and his team at the University of Chicago are currently working on a way around this problem.

They plan to build machines to connect to various points along the cables that could decode and re-code the photon particles, stretching the distance they could travel before being corrupted.

Argonne’s lab is also working on a method where synthetic diamonds could help increase the distance the particles travel.

However, there has been no breakthrough yet, although scientists remain hopeful.

Dr Steven Girvin, a physicist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, said there were still “enormous technical difficulties” to overcome.

“But you could say it could become as big as the technological revolution of the 20th century that gave us the laser, the transistor and the atomic clock and, therefore, GPS and the internet,” he added.

The Chicago lab is overflowing with cables and expensive laser machines as scientists continue their research.

A device that makes a hissing noise like Thomas the Tank Engine has also been covered with a picture of the kids’ favorite face.

Other searches are underway in Boston, New York, Maryland and Arizona. Scientists hope to one day connect labs in a first “mini-quantum” network.

Research is also underway in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and China, which has made it possible to internationalize the first network.

It is still unclear whether the new technology could beat conventional computers.

At the heart of modern computing is binary code that has served for decades.

This breaks the information down into small parts, or “bits,” which are then transmitted through wires to their destination as a zero or a one.

But quantum computers use “qubits” that can do the value of zero, one, or even both simultaneously.

Google, IBM and Intel are among the companies competing to achieve this.

QUANTUM COMPUTING: OPERATING ON THE BASIS OF A CIRCUIT ON AND OFF AT THE SAME TIME

The key to a quantum computer is its ability to operate on the basis of a circuit that is not just “on” or “off”, but occupying a state that is both “on” and “off”.

Although this may seem strange, it is due to the laws of quantum mechanics, which govern the behavior of the particles that make up an atom.

At this micro-scale, matter acts in ways that would be impossible on the macro-scale of the universe in which we live.

Quantum mechanics allows these extremely small particles to exist in multiple states, known as “superposition”, until they are seen or interfered with.

A scanning tunneling microscope shows a quantum bit of a phosphorus atom precisely positioned in silicon.  Scientists have discovered how to make qubits talk to each other

A scanning tunneling microscope shows a quantum bit of a phosphorus atom precisely positioned in silicon. Scientists have discovered how to make qubits talk to each other

A good analogy is that of a coin spinning in the air. It can’t be said to be a ‘heads’ or a ‘tails’ until it lands.

The heart of modern computing is binary code, which has served computers for decades.

Whereas a classical computer has “bits” made up of zeros and ones, a quantum computer has “qubits” which can take on the value of zero or one, or even both simultaneously.

One of the main stumbling blocks for the development of quantum computers has been to demonstrate that they can beat classical computers.

Google, IBM and Intel are among the companies competing to achieve this.

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