Quantum News Briefs October 25: Asia Times report on “US mulling bans to stunt China’s quantum computing”; Quantum Sensors: Navigating When GPS Goes Dark; Idaho National Laboratory exploring the quantum mysteries of nuclear materials & MORE.
US mulling bans to stunt China’s quantum computing
China risks falling behind in the quantum computing race as the United States reportedly weighs new export controls on the game-changing technology.
The new ban, if implemented, would target quantum computing, artificial intelligence software and other emerging technologies that could have security implications vis-a-vis China. The ban would mark a next salvo on the Biden administration’s October 7 move to block high-end chips and advanced chip-making equipment exports to China.
Bloomberg reported that US industry experts are now weighing in on the potential parameters of the restrictions, which are still preliminary, and that US allies are being consulted. Analysts say any such ban would further antagonize China, which strongly protested the October 7 bans, and could put the two rivals on a dangerous collision course.
On September 15, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order urging the US Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment into the US (CFIUS) to ensure more robust consideration of evolving national security risks. What may otherwise appear to be an economic transaction undertaken for commercial purposes may actually present an unacceptable risk to US national security when conducted with foreign adversaries or countries of special concern, according to the Executive Order. It said the committee should consider the transaction’s effect on US supply chain resilience and national security across the microelectronics, AI, biotechnology and quantum computing sectors.
Click here to read complete Asia Times article.
Quantum Sensors: Navigating When GPS Goes Dark
In a major milestone toward realizing their vision, the team has successfully constructed a cold-atom interferometer. This is a core component of quantum sensors, and their version is designed to be much smaller and tougher than typical lab setups. The team describes their prototype in a paper that was recently published in the academic journal Nature Communications. The paper also describes a roadmap for further miniaturizing the system using technologies under development.
The prototype, funded by Sandia’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program, demonstrates significant strides toward moving advanced navigation tech out of the lab and into vehicles on the ground, underground, in the air, and even in space. Most modern atom interferometry experiments use a system of lasers mounted to a large optical table for stability reasons, Roger said. Sandia’s device is comparatively compact, but the team has already come up with further design improvements to make the quantum sensors much smaller using integrated photonic technologies.
Current onboard navigation tech can measure the aircraft’s tilts and turns and accelerations to calculate its position without GPS, for a time. Small measurement errors gradually push a vehicle off course unless it periodically syncs with the satellites, Jongmin said. Quantum sensing would operate in the same way, but the much better accuracy would mean onboard navigation wouldn’t need to cross-check its calculations as often, reducing reliance on satellite systems.
BT’s keys to the quantum internet
BT, Toshiba and EY collaborated in a trial of the world’s first commercial quantum-secured metro network in April. The infrastructure will connect numerous customers across London, helping them to secure data transmissions between physical locations using quantum key distribution (QKD) over standard fibre optic links.
Andrew Lord said the company is working with Toshiba because it is the “best-in-class making QKD. When you’re doing this kind of trailblazing science, and looking at how it might turn into something useful for BT that we can downstream and start to commercialise, you do need to have these sorts of relationships,” Lord says.
While QKD is still in its early stages, BT said earlier this year it will offer quantum-secure networks to large business, attracting them is key for BT in the future. “At some point, quantum computers will have the capability of breaking our standard encryption. They don’t yet, but they will,” says Lord.
BT has a broad R&D portfolio spanning components for quantum systems, secure networks, and new cryptographic and communications protocols. Its recent partnerships highlight its commitment to the technology.
Lord maintains that BT is looking beyond security. Its grand vision is to use qubit transmissions to connect quantum computers, creating the ‘quantum internet’.Lord believes next three years will be key in answering this question, because while investment in quantum communications makes it seem as though the sector is exploding, it is not ready for the mainstream.
“That’s what we’re at the cusp of discovering,” Lord says. “Will it stay niche or will the momentum continue?”
Click here to read complete interview.
Idaho National Laboratory exploring the quantum mysteries of nuclear materials
Uranium and thorium, which are part of a larger group of elements called actinides, are used as fuels in nuclear power reactors because they can undergo nuclear fission under certain conditions.
However, the unique properties of these elements, especially the arrangement of their electrons, also means they could exhibit interesting quantum mechanical properties. In particular, the behavior of particles in special, extremely thin materials made from actinides could increase our understanding of phenomena such as quantum wells and quantum tunneling.
To study these properties, a team of researchers has built a laboratory around molecular beam epitaxy (MBE), a process that creates ultra-thin layers of materials with a high degree of purity and control.
“The MBE technique itself is not new,” said Krzysztof Gofryk, a scientist at INL. “It’s widely used. What’s new is that we’re applying this method to actinide materials—uranium and thorium. Right now, this capability doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world that we know of.”
An announcement about the new laboratory appears online in the journal Nature Communications.
University of the Witwatersrand to lead South African quantum technologies initiative
This funding will be disbursed between now and March 2025 and is intended to be a first tranche of funding for the project, designated the South African Quantum Technologies Initiative (SA QuTI).
“We managed to convince the government that quantum research is too important to leave to a small research group, and that they should invest in a national programme,” said Wits School of Physics professor and initiative proposal writer Andrew Forbes. “It means we can drive the technology and get many quantum nodes up to scratch.”
The other universities involved in SA QuTI are the University of Zululand, Stellenbosch University, the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Quantum nodes will be established at each of these, as well as at Wits. In due course, further such nodes will also be created. Wits will manage SA QuTI and administer and distribute the assigned funds.
Sandra K. Helsel, Ph.D. has been researching and reporting on frontier technologies since 1990. She has her Ph.D. from the University of Arizona.