Race to Quantum Internet Needs Engineers, Gear to Match Science
(By Becky Bracken) Science has made notable progress in the fidelity and speed of communication across quantum systems. But what researchers really need to move to the next step toward a quantum internet are more engineers and better cooperation with the telecommunications equipment sector, according to Harvard University Physicist quantum network expert Mihir Bhaskar.
Bhaskar’s PhD research at Harvard centered around creating quantum repeater platform built on color-center qubits in diamond and along with his team.
Bhaskar, along with Carol Hawk from the Department of Energy spoke at the Inside Quantum Technology conference on May 18 and agreed exciting progress is being made on the science and research front of quantum repeaters and quantum memories needed to power a quantum internet. Hawk described the quantum communications marketplace as “imminent.”
There’s big money at stake. Inside Quantum Technology predicted quantum communications to generate billions in equipment and service revenues as soon as 2023.
Quantum Memory Research Needs Engineers
But first, Bhaskar explained, researchers need to set up a test bed, but the equipment needed to build one doesn’t exist. He said the quantum communications space is short on engineers to help create flexible pieces of hardware system which can be tested and measured.
“What we need are engineers with expertise in packaging for the test bed,” Bhaskar said. “We need to modularize quantum memory technology and it requires a degree of engineering we don’t currently have available.”
More Telco Cooperation
The other issue Bhaskar identified is a lack of general cooperation with the telecommunications equipment industry. Quantum communications relies on fiber optics and many of the same tools as traditional communications, but often needs something specific for research. Bhaskar explained an improved relationship between the labs and telecom would help with innovation, but that there are not currently incentives for the companies to help build specialized optical devices for quantum.
Nonetheless the experts were both upbeat about how much progress is being made.
“It’s an exciting time to be in quantum communications,” Hawk said.