Good morning dear readers of tecnogalaxy, today we are going to talk about the evolution of quantum computers.

Researchers in the Netherlands have successfully connected three separate quantum processors into what is effectively the world’s first multi-node quantum network. This paves the way for a large-scale quantum Internet that governments and scientists have been dreaming of for decades.

QuTech, a quantum research institute based in Delft, has published a new paper in which they have connected three nodes that can store and process quantum bits (also called qubits). This, according to QuTech researchers, is the world’s first rudimentary quantum network.

Connecting quantum devices is by no means new: many researchers around the world are currently working on similar networks, but so far they have only been able to connect two quantum processors. Establishing a multi-node connection, then, is a key step in significantly expanding the size of the network.

The benefits produced by quantum computers

Driving much of the research effort is the goal of creating a quantum Internet that could one day span the surface of the planet. The Quantum Internet will exploit the strange laws of quantum mechanics to allow quantum devices to communicate with each other and should unlock a range of applications that cannot be performed by existing classical means.

For example, the Quantum Internet could link small quantum devices together to create a large quantum cluster with more computing power than more sophisticated classical supercomputers.

“A quantum Internet will open up a range of new applications, from non-hackable communication and cloud computing with complete user privacy to high-precision timing,” said Matteo Pompili, a member of QuTech’s research team. “And as with the Internet 40 years ago, there are probably a lot of applications that we can’t predict right now.”

How quantum computers work

One of the key quantum properties underlying the quantum Internet is entanglement, a phenomenon that occurs when two quantum particles are coupled in such a way that they become fundamentally connected, regardless of how far apart they are physically from each other.

When two quantum particles are entangled, their properties bind, which means that any change to one of the particles will inevitably be reflected in the other. In quantum communications, this means that scientists could effectively use entangled particles to “teleport” information from one qubit to its paired pair, even if the two are in separate quantum devices.

For the system to hold up, however, the entanglement must be established and maintained in the first place. Over the past decade, this has been achieved by numerous research groups, typically by creating a physical link between two quantum devices. Through this link, often fiber optics, qubits can be created, intertwined, and then distributed between two separate quantum devices.

But two nodes are barely enough to create a large-scale network; and in a fiber optic cable, for example, entanglement cannot be maintained after about 100 kilometers, meaning that quantum networks to date have been limited by the short distance they can cover.

This is why QuTech’s research team developed a system based on intermediate nodes, similar to routers in the classical Internet, that could maintain entanglement over longer distances.

Bob, Alice and Charlie

The architecture the scientists revealed is seemingly simple. An intermediate node, called Bob, has a physical connection to two external nodes, called Alice and Charlie. This means that entanglement can be established between Bob and each of the outer nodes.

Bob is equipped with two qubits, one of which is a memory qubit that allows the device to store a quantum connection established with, say, Alice, while creating, thanks to its communication qubit, a new connection with the other node – in this scenario, with Charlie.

Once both links to external nodes have been created, Bob connects his two qubits locally, creating a fully connected network with entanglement between all three nodes. This means that a quantum link can be established between Alice and Charlie, even without a direct physical connection between the two nodes.

The QuTech team then also developed a first-of-its-kind quantum network protocol, with a flag signal indicating that each operation was successfully completed.

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