The future of the Internet according to demonstrations conducted by engineers at the University of Toronto is about to gravitate to the quantum level. The engineering team led by professor Hoi-Kwong Lo developed a prototype of an all-photonic quantum repeater. As such, the breakthrough forms the backbone of the future quantum Internet. According to the professor, the device marked a critical step towards long-distance quantum communication. Quantum internet provides a base through which secure communications get achieved. Todays’ Internet remains vulnerable as hackers regularly devise ways of pocking holes and seeking vulnerabilities without detection. Consequently, corporations, individuals, and governments have suffered both in monetary value and information.
The constant attacks on infrastructure by hackers have led researchers and developers to device methods of securing the Internet. A proposal made by researchers sought to utilize key components of quantum physics to develop unbreakable encryption. While research continues to take shape, one of the most promising technologies that may provide the security needed is the adoption of quantum key distribution. The QKD technique leverages on the fact that measuring or sensing any quantum state results to a disturbance in the system. As such, any interruption by a third-party creates an imbalance in the system. Consequently, the imbalance is detected as it leaves detectable traces. Therefore, information on transit can be terminated before data theft takes place.
To date, quantum security has been achieved only in small scale due to the challenges posed by transmitting quantum information over long distances. Professor Lo and his team are among a group tasked with overcoming the transmission barriers and laying the groundwork to the development of the quantum Internet. Light signals lose their strength during transmission. Therefore, repeaters are used to amplify the signals at regular intervals. However, when it comes to the transmission of quantum information, quantum repeaters are required. The already existing repeaters only work in cryogenic temperatures. The result is that they become expensive to build, error-prone, and highly problematic.
Professor Kwong and his team have developed all-photonic repeaters that eliminate most shortcomings of the already existing repeaters. In a proof-of-concept demonstration, Lo said that the repeaters work in room temperature. The proof of concept paper was published in Nature Communications. Such a breakthrough enables the implementation of quantum Internet achievable. In turn, achieving quantum Internet leads to the development of un-hackable security and quantum teleportation. Lo, and his team’s work creates an essential foundation that is necessary for the achievement of a quantum internet.