In the science of quantum communication, the challenge has always been prolonging the entangled state that the particles are in. As quantum information is carried by these entangled particles, the length of time the entanglement is sustained affects the distance that the information can travel.
Quantum communication systems do this using direct optical-fiber connections, which are rather limited because the way that fibers absorb light can disrupt the entanglement needed to carry quantum information.
Building a quantum internet, which is essentially a network of quantum entangled routers linked by fiber that can store quantum information, requires a function of routers that can store and send entangled particles. A team of researchers from the University of Vienna in Austria, led by Ralf Riedinger, supposedly built such a router.
This device is a nanomachine capable of receiving and storing quantum information sent through ordinary fiber optic cables. It contains a pair of nanofabricated silicon resonators that use electron-beam lithography and plasma reactive-ion etching, which are tiny silicon beams that vibrate like a guitar string.
“Combining our results with optomechanical devices capable of transferring quantum information from the optical to the microwave domain could provide a backbone for a future quantum internet using superconducting quantum computers,” Riedinger and his colleagues wrote.
Just like how quantum computers would change our problem-solving abilities, a quantum internet is expected to completely revolutionize communication. This is partially because it promises to be more secure, thanks to quantum cryptography that renders messages potentially un-hackable. Experts believe that we’re only a decade away from realizing a working, secure quantum network.