(CNBC) The Trump administration’s 2021 budget request proposes slashing the overall funding for scientific research by nearly 10% but boosts spending on quantum information science by about 20%, to $237 million.
Of that, the DOE has requested $25 million to accelerate the development of a quantum internet. Such a network would leverage the counterintuitive behavior of nature’s particles to manipulate and share information in entirely new ways, with the potential to reinvent fields including cybersecurity and material science.
While the traditional internet for general use isn’t going anywhere, a quantum network would offer decisive advantages for certain applications: Researchers could use it to develop drugs and materials by simulating atomic behavior on networked quantum computers, for instance, and financial institutions and governments would benefit from next-level cybersecurity. Many countries are pursuing quantum research programs, and with the 2021 budget proposal, the Trump administration seeks to ramp up that effort.
Just as it did in the 1960s, the DOE is again sowing the seeds for a future network at its national labs.
Quantum information science unites phenomena, promising a novel, richer way to process information — analogous to moving from 2-D to 3-D graphics, or learning to calculate with decimals instead of just whole numbers. Quantum devices fluent in nature’s native tongue could, for instance, supercharge scientists’ ability to design materials and drugs by emulating new atomic structures without having to test their properties in the lab. Entanglement, a delicate link destroyed by external tampering, could guarantee that connections between devices remain private.