The Chicago Quantum Exchange takes the first steps toward a future that could revolutionize computing and medicine

Quantum computer

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Flashes of what could become a new transformative technology spread across a fiber-optic network beneath Chicago.

Researchers have created one of the largest sharing networks in the world quantum informationA field of science based on paradoxes so strange that Albert Einstein did not believe them.

The network, which links the University of Chicago to Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, is a prototype version of what scientists hope will one day become the Internet of the future. For now, it has opened up the space for companies and researchers to test the basics of quantitative information sharing.

The network was announced this week by the Chicago Quantum Exchange — which also includes the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Northwestern University, the University of Illinois and the University of Wisconsin.

With $500 million in federal investment in recent years and $200 million from the state, Chicago, Urbana-Champaign, and Madison constitute a leading area of ​​quantitative information research.

Why is this important to the average person? As quantitative information has the potential to help solve currently unsolvable problems, it threatens and protects private information, and leads to breakthroughs in agriculture, medicine and climate change.

Whereas classical computing uses pieces of information that contain either 1 or zero, Quantum bitor qubits, are like a coin flipped in the air – containing both a 1 and a zero, to be identified as soon as they are observed.

The quality of being in two or more states at once, called superposition, is one of the many paradoxes of quantum mechanics—how particles behave at the atomic and subatomic levels. It’s also a potentially critical feature, as it can handle significantly more complex problems.

Another key aspect is the property of entanglement, whereby qubits separated by large distances can still be linked, so measuring in one location reveals a distant measurement.

The newly expanded Chicago Network, created in collaboration with Toshiba, distributes particles of light called photons. Attempting to intercept the photons destroys them and the information they contain – making them difficult to penetrate.

The new network allows researchers to “push the boundaries of what is currently possible,” said University of Chicago professor David Oshalom, director of the Chicago Quantum Exchange.

However, researchers must solve several practical problems before quantum computing and networks are possible.

For example, researchers at Argonne are working to create a “foundry” where reliable qubits can be formed. One example is a diamond membrane with tiny pockets for storing and processing qubits of information. The Argonne researchers also created qubits by freezing neon to hold a single electron.

Because quantum phenomena are so sensitive to any perturbation, they can also be used as small sensors for medical or other applications—but they also need to be made more robust.

The quantum network was launched in Argonne in 2020, but it has now expanded to Hyde Park and opened for use by companies and researchers to test new communication devices, security protocols and algorithms. Any project that relies on secure information, such as bank financial records for hospital medical records, would likely use such a system.

Quantum computers, as they are now being developed, may one day be able to perform calculations much more complex than current computers, such as folding proteins, which could be useful in developing drugs to treat diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

In addition to driving research, the quantum field is stimulating economic development in the region. A hardware company, EeroQ, announced in January that it was moving its headquarters to Chicago. Another local software company, Super.tech, was recently acquired and several other companies started in the area.

As quantum computing can be used to hack traditional cryptography, it has also attracted bipartisan attention from federal lawmakers. The National Quantum Initiative Act was signed into law by President Donald Trump in 2018 to accelerate quantum development for national security purposes.

In May, President Joe Biden directed the Federal Migration Agency to quantum-resistant encryption on its most critical defense and intelligence systems.

Ironically, basic math problems, such as 5 + 5 = 10, are rather difficult Quantitative Statistics. Quantum Information It is more likely to be used for high-end applications, while classical computing is likely to continue to be practical for many everyday uses.

Famous physicist Einstein was famous for mocking the paradoxes and skepticism of quantum mechanics, saying that God does not “play dice” with the universe. But quantum theories have been validated in applications from nuclear energy to magnetic resonance imaging.

Stephen Gray, chief scientist at Argonne, who works on algorithms to work on quantum computers, said quantum work is very difficult, and no one fully understands it.

But there have been significant developments in this field over the past 30 years, leading to what some scientists have jokingly called Quantum 2.0, with practical developments expected over the next decade.

“We are betting in the next five to ten years that there will be a real quantitative advantage (over classic computing), Gray said. We haven’t gotten there yet. Some naysayers shake their sticks and say that will never happen. But we are positive.”

Just as early work on classical computers eventually led to mobile phones, said Brian DeMarco, a professor of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who works with the Chicago Quantum Exchange, it’s hard to predict where quantum research will lead.

“That’s why it’s such an exciting time,” he said. “The most important applications are yet to be discovered.”


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