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Quantum News Briefs September 9: Crushed plastic bottles could create nanodiamonds for quantum sensors; New device-independent quantum cryptography method could provide more secure cncryption; Commonwealth of Massachusetts awards $3.5M R&D grant for new Northeastern University quantum facility & MORE

By Sandra Helsel posted 09 Sep 2022

Quantum News Briefs September 9 begin with explanation how crushed plastic bottles could create nanodiamonds for quantum sensors followed by new device-independent quantum cryptography method could provide more secure cncryption. Commonwealth of Massachusetts awards $3.5M R&D grant for new Northeastern University quantum facility is third & MORE

Crushed plastic bottles could create nanodiamonds for quantum sensors

A research team has used laser flashes to simulate the interior of ice planets, spurring a new process for producing the type of miniscule diamonds that are essential for quantum sensors.The research and its implications were reported in Engineering&Tehnology (E&T) and summarized here.
The international team, headed by the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR), the University of Rostock and France’s École Polytechnique, conducted a novel experiment to determine what goes on inside ice planets such as Neptune and Uranus.
The researchers fired a laser at a thin film of simple PET plastic and investigated what happened using intensive laser flashes. One result was that the researchers were able to confirm that it really does ‘rain diamonds’ inside the ice giants at the periphery of our solar system.
This method could establish a new way of producing nanodiamonds, which are needed, for example, for highly-sensitive quantum sensors. The group has presented its findings in the journal Science Advances.
The conditions in the interior of icy giant planets such as Neptune and Uranus are extreme: temperatures reach several thousand degrees Celsius and the pressure is millions of times greater than in the Earth’s atmosphere. Nonetheless, states like this can be simulated briefly in the lab: powerful laser flashes hit a film-like material sample, heat it up to 6,000°C for the blink of an eye and generate a shock wave that compresses the material for a few nanoseconds to a million times the atmospheric pressure.
ice giants not only contain carbon and hydrogen but also vast amounts of oxygen. When searching for suitable film material, the group hit on an everyday substance: PET, the resin out of which ordinary plastic bottles are made. “PET has a good balance between carbon, hydrogen and oxygen to simulate the activity in ice planets,” Kraus said.
The experiment also opens up perspectives for a technical application: the tailored production of nanometre-sized diamonds, which are already included in abrasives and polishing agents. In the future, it is predicted that they will be used as highly sensitive quantum sensors.


New device-independent quantum cryptography method could provide more secure cncryption

Researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have developed a new protocol for device-independent QKD or DIQKD. Quantum News Briefs summarizes the NewsDeal coverage below.
In the case of device-independent QKD or DIQKD, the cryptographic protocol is not dependent on the device used. For the exchange of quantum mechanical keys, either light signals are sent to the receiver by the transmitter or entangled quantum systems are used.two measurement settings for key generation are used rather than just one. “By introducing the additional setting for key generation, it becomes more difficult to intercept information, and therefore the protocol can tolerate more noise and generate secret keys even for lower-quality entangled states,” said Charles Lim from NUS. Lim is also one of the authors of the study.
In conventional QKD methods, security can be guaranteed when the quantum devices used have been characterised well. “And so, users of such protocols have to rely on the specifications furnished by the QKD providers and trust that the device will not switch into another operating mode during the key distribution,” explained Tim van Leent, one of the lead authors.
Researchers hope that their method will now help generate secret keys with uncharacterised and untrustworthy devices. They are now aiming to expand the system and incorporate several entangled atom pairs.


Commonwealth of Massachusetts awards $3.5M R&D grant for new Northeastern University quantum facility

The Baker-Polito Administration in Massachusetts has announced a new $3.5 million grant for the Experiential Quantum Advancement Laboratories (EQUAL), a nearly $10 million project to advance the emerging quantum sensing and related technology sectors in the state. Quantum News Briefs shares key points of the announcement below.
The Northeastern-led project will establish new partnerships and leverage several ongoing ones with academic institutions and industry partners. The aim is to develop next-generation quantum technologies, boost training in quantum information science and engineering for students and workers, and establish greater partnerships among industry and government around quantum sensing and related technologies.
The new award, from the Commonwealth’s Collaborative Research and Development Matching Grant program managed by the Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech), will advance quantum information sciences, a priority focus area for the R&D Fund. The targeted investment has strong potential for near-term economic impacts, including the creation of new jobs and revenue growth at industry partners, several of which attended Wednesday’s announcement.
The grant will support the development of new ultrasensitive, room-temperature quantum sensors, facilities which will provide a vital and unique capability in the state. By focusing on sensors, which are less technically demanding than developing entire quantum computers, Northeastern is undertaking research that provides viable pathways to commercialization within the next two to five years.
The project will include a strong focus on workforce training, responding to the growing need for workers that are literate in quantum information sciences.  See complete news release here.


New stable quantum batteries can reliably store energy in electromagnetic fields

Quantum technologies need energy to operate. This simple consideration has led researchers, in the last ten years, to develop the idea of quantum batteries, which are quantum mechanical systems used as energy storage devices. In the very recent past, researchers at the Center for Theoretical Physics of Complex Systems (PCS) within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS), South Korea have been able to put tight constraints on the possible charging performance of a quantum battery. Specifically, they showed that a collection of quantum batteries can lead to an enormous improvement in charging speed compared to a classical charging protocol. This is thanks to quantum effects, which allow the cells in quantum batteries to be charged simultaneously.
Despite these theoretical achievements, the experimental realizations of quantum batteries are still scarce. The only recent notable counter-example used a collection of two-level systems (very similar to the qubits just introduced) for energy storage purposes, with the energy being provided by an electromagnetic field (a laser).
Given the current situation, it is clearly of uttermost importance to find new and more accessible quantum platforms which can be used as quantum batteries. With this motivation in mind, researchers from the same IBS PCS team, working in collaboration with Giuliano Benenti (University of Insubria, Italy), recently decided to revisit a quantum mechanical system that has been studied heavily in the past: the micromaser. Micromaser is a system where a beam of atoms is used to pump photons into a cavity. Put in simple terms, a micromaser can be thought of as a configuration specular to the experimental model of quantum battery mentioned above: the energy is stored into the electromagnetic field, which is charged by a stream of qubits sequentially interacting with it.
The IBS PCS researchers and their collaborator showed that micromasers have features that allow them to serve as excellent models of quantum batteries. One of the main concerns when trying to use an electromagnetic field to store energy is that in principle, the electromagnetic field could absorb an enormous amount of energy, potentially much more than what is necessary.


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.

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