A more secure internet could be on its way thanks to the work of engineering researchers who have demonstrated proof-of-principle for a device that could assist in the creation of a future quantum Internet.
Professor Hoi-Kwong Lo from the University of Toronto and his team have created a prototype for a key element for all-photonic quantum repeaters. These repeaters are an essential part of achieving long-distance quantum communication.
The internet we use today was not designed for security, and it is constantly being hacked, broken and exposed. Despite the work of many to make aspects of the internet more secure, the knowledge of those creating secure spaces and those hacking it are on the same level.
To overcome this, researchers have proposed the creation of a quantum internet that would use principles of quantum physics to create virtually unbreakable encryption.
Quantum internet could deliver impenetrable security and quantum teleportation
One of the best examples of this potential internet uses a technique known as quantum key distribution (QKD). QKD works on the idea that measuring the state of a quantum system disturbs that system so that any third party eavesdropping by uninvited guests would leave a detectable trace and then the communication can be aborted before any valuable or sensitive information is lost.
This type of communication has worked well previously at small scale, but now Lo and his collaborators are working on ways to scale up this type of communication using optical fiber.
Light signals lose potency as they travel through fiber-optic cables, so devices called repeaters are inserted at regular intervals along the line to amplify the signal and help push the information along the line.
Quantum repeaters usually expensive and error-prone
But a quantum system is different, and repeater in a quantum communication system needs to store the quantum state at each iteration.
This makes the repeaters expensive and difficult to build as well as be prone to errors. However, the new research from Lo and his team could change that. They are working on the development of the next generation of repeaters called all-photonic quantum repeaters.
They have published their research about the proof-of-concept of their work in a paper recently published in Nature Communications. We have developed all-photonic repeaters that allow time-reversed adaptive Bell measurement," says Lo.
"Because these repeaters are all-optical, they offer advantages that traditional -- quantum-memory-based matter -- repeaters do not. For example, this method could work at room temperature."
A quantum internet offers the possibility for impenetrable security and quantum teleportation, which are impossible to achieve now with the conventional internet.
"An all-optical network is a promising form of infrastructure for fast and energy-efficient communication that is required for a future quantum internet," says Lo.
"Our work helps pave the way toward this future."