Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago entangled photons across a 52-mile network in the Chicago suburbs, an important step in developing a national quantum internet.
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Scientists entangle light particles across the quantum loop in the Chicago suburbs. Animation shows the general path, which winds circuitously across a pair of 26-mile loops from Argonne National Laboratory to the I-355 Boughton Rd. Toll Plaza in Bolingbrook, IL. (Image: Argonne National Laboratory)
The quantum loop, spearheaded by Argonne senior scientist and UChicago professor David Awschalom, ran its first successful entanglement experiments. The loop is amongst the longest land-based quantum networks in the nation.
“This is an important step forward in harnessing entanglement and building a network to help form the basis of future quantum communication systems,” said Awschalom. “We are excited by these initial demonstrations of distributing entanglement outside of a laboratory, as well as having a flexible communications platform that allows us to identify the challenges of translating quantum phenomena to the real world.”
In the subatomic quantum world, particles can become entangled, sharing states while in different locations—a phenomenon which could be used to transfer information. The network winds circuitously in a pair of 26-mile loops through several of Chicago’s western suburbs, taps the unique properties of quantum mechanics to eventually “teleport” information.
“An exciting part of this experiment is that it takes place outside of the lab and moves into the real world where there are temperature changes and vibrations and noise,” said Argonne Director Paul Kearns. “This will give valuable insight in possibly creating a national quantum internet.”
Argonne plans to scale this network by developing a two-way quantum link network with Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Such a link could help to lay the foundation for a national laboratory-led cross-country quantum internet.
The team worked closely with companies in the emerging quantum industry including Qubitekk, a new company developing quantum technologies. The result is the latest from members of the Chicago Quantum Exchange, a national leader in quantum information science.
“By integrating communities with our national lab system, we can look forward to a future filled with innovation and collaboration,” said Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar. “The Department of Energy is proud to bring businesses closer to the technology built at Argonne. By developing the quantum loop, we will remain globally competitive around the world.”
The quantum loop is supported by the DOE Office of Science Basic Energy Sciences program. Additional support for this experiment was provided by the Joint Task Force Initiative, a University of Chicago program dedicated to helping Argonne and Fermilab achieve mission success.