Vision of the future “quantum internet”

The quantum internet would be a special kind of communication medium. © Vitalii Gulenok/iStock

What Albert Einstein once described as "spooky action at a distance" could revolutionize communication in the future: In the April issue, bild der wissenschaft (bdw) reports on how researchers want to use quantum phenomena to develop a bug-proof Internet. The challenges are enormous. Nevertheless, a look into the laboratories of quantum researchers shows promising progress towards a quantum internet.

It is the sometimes magical behavior of matter in the size range of atoms and their components: At first, the quantum world seemed like an enraptured playground for basic researchers. But then the enormous technical potential of quantum mechanics became apparent and amazing applications in the field of laser and computer technology were already produced. The focus of the two-part cover story "The Quantum Internet" is now the development of a new type of communication medium based on quantum effects, which above all could prevent data theft.

In the first article, the bdw editor Ralf Butscher reports on his impressions during a visit to the laboratories of one of the global hotspots for the development of quantum technology: the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching. As he explains, the key to developing a quantum internet is the ability to entangle atoms and photons. The author and the experts first explain what this almost magical connection between quantum objects is all about. Irrespective of the distance, their connection remains and thus offers a special opportunity for information transfer.

Phenomenon with technical potential

As far as the protection against eavesdropping is concerned, which is superior to conventional data transmission, the fixed dependency of the entangled particle pairs is the sticking point. Butscher explains why, with this system, any unauthorized access to the data by third parties would be noticed immediately. As the insights into the complex systems in the Max Planck research laboratories make clear, there is already promising progress on the way to using the concept: the first quantum networks have already been realized. However, the technology is still in its infancy. For a practicable connection of quantum systems, more range and robustness must first be ensured, according to the article "Adventure Quantum Internet".

In the second article of the title story, Butscher takes a look at the history of research and the scientific breakthroughs in the field of quantum mechanics. Physicists introduced this concept around 100 years ago to describe phenomena in the microcosm. The author reports how some aspects of this physical edifice seemed so bizarre even to the authors - including Albert Einstein - that they found it difficult to accept their existence. This was especially true for the entanglement of particles.

But then the view on the subject became clearer and clearer. This culminated in the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics: three scientists were recognized for their achievements in the field of quantum mechanics. Butscher reports on her sophisticated experiments, which laid the foundation for the development of quantum technologies such as the quantum internet, in the article "Pioneers in the Quantum Cosmos".

You can read the articles on the cover topic "The Quantum Internet" online as part of a bdw+ subscription, or you can find them in the April issue of bild der wissenschaft, which will be available in stores from March 21st.

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