(PME.Chicago.edu) Assistant Prof. Tian Zhong of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) was recently awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for his research proposal on creating a quantum internet, which could give internet users the power of quantum computing by distributing entanglement and exchanging quantum information over a global scale.
The research project, “Long-distance quantum network of long-lived rare-earth qubits,” earned Zhong the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from NSF. The award carries a value of $500,000 over a five-year period.
Quantum internet consists of stationary nodes where entanglement is generated and stored, and the nodes are connected via photons as quantum links. Today, distribution of quantum-secured cryptographic keys over a network link has been realized, but only at distances no greater than ~100 km due to the intrinsic loss of optical fibers.
Zhong’s project proposes to overcome this limit by developing quantum repeater nodes, where quantum information—in the form of a qubit—is sent as photons between nearby nodes. Qubits are then stored in the internal states of atoms as quantum memories at each node for further processing or user access.

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