Rare Earth Atoms See the Light - Heading for Quantum Internet

A study from the University of Chicago shown that the Quantum Internet is expected to be realized with solid rare earth atoms. The quantum Internet is composed of multiple static nodes. These nodes can generate and store quantum entanglements. Quantum networks form an important element of quantum computing and quantum communication systems. Quantum networks facilitate the transmission of information in the form of quantum bits, also called qubits, between physically separated quantum processors.

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A quantum processor is a small quantum computer being able to perform quantum logic gates on a certain number of qubits. Quantum networks work in a similar way to classical networks. The main difference, as will be detailed more in later paragraphs, is that quantum networking like quantum computing is better at solving certain problems, such as modeling quantum systems.

Nowadays, the optical fiber quantum key distribution can realize information security communication, but due to factors such as photon loss, the communication distance does not exceed 100 kilometers.

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Assistant Professor Tian Zhong of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago in the United States has proposed a "long-distance quantum network based on long-lived rare earth qubits" project, which aims to establish multiple quantum relay nodes to break the communication distance limit. Through quantum relay nodes, quantum information can be transmitted over long distances using photons and stored temporarily in quantum memory before access or process them. The project aims to use independent solid-state rare earth atoms (such as erbium atoms) to realize quantum relay nodes, which have long coherence time and radiation wavelength compatible with communication infrastructure.

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The rare earth atoms' development heads for the quantum internet. Once this quantum Internet is deployed, it is expected to guarantee information and communication security, provide high-performance computing, and achieve high-sensitivity metering. Recently, Assistant Professor Tian Zhong won the National Science Foundation Outstanding Youth Research Award for his long-range quantum network based on long-lived rare earth qubits project. The project will last for 5 years and will cost the US $ 500,000.