Argonne National Laboratory and Chicago University scientists have launched a new testbed for quantum communication experiments.
According to the scientists, the quantum loop consists of a pair of connected 26-mile fiber-optic cables that wind circuitously between Argonne to the Illinois Tollway near suburban Bolingbrook and back.
At 52 total miles, it is among the longest ground-based quantum communication channels in the country.
The loop will serve as a testbed for researchers interested in leveraging the principles of quantum physics to send unhackable information across long distances.
Both teams plan to use the testbed to explore science underlying quantum engineering systems and to harness the properties of quantum entanglement – a phenomenon Albert Einstein famously characterized as “spooky action at a distance.”
“Inaugurating this quantum loop is a significant step for Chicago and the nation in building a large-scale quantum network that can enable secure data transmissions over long distances,” says principal investigator and Argonne senior scientist David Awschalom, who is also the director of the Chicago Quantum Exchange.
“The loop will enable us to identify and address challenges in operating a quantum network and can be scaled to test and demonstrate communication across even greater distances to help lay the foundation for a quantum internet.”
Argonne scientists Joe Heremans, Alan Dibos and Gary Wolfowicz, who worked on the quantum loop project, demonstrated the operation of the testbed by generating and transmitting optical pulses through one and then both fiber loops.
They witnessed a delay of 200 microseconds for the transit time of the laser pulse along one fiber loop, which is consistent with the speed of light in the glass fiber.
They also began to use the loop for a series of experiments, including transmitting signals from photons emitted from ensembles of ions. These ions can be used as a quantum memory for the network.
In addition to the quantum loop, Argonne plans to develop a two-way quantum link network with Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.
When the two projects are connected, the quantum link, also supported by the Department of Energy (DOE), is expected to be among the longest links in the world to send secure information using quantum physics.
Image and content: Argonne National Laboratory