Quantum internet networks? They are not just an aspiration. The first quantum repeaters have been developed, the last piece that was missing. The prototypes were made by two independent groups, one led byBarcelona Institute of Science and Technology and the other fromUniversity of Science and Technology in Heifei in China, the results of which were published in Nature. “Quantum communications today – he commented Fabio Sciarrino, head of the Quantum Information Lab at Sapienza in Rome – they are a mature field but gods still exist limits related above all to the maximum distance through which it is possible to send an encrypted message in full safety. Now, thanks to these new steps towards ‘quantum repeaters’ it will also be possible to overcome these last obstacles ”.
Leverage the bizarre quantum rules in fact, it guarantees absolutely inviolable communications and for this reason it has been investing for years in the creation of global internet networks capable of carrying information in the form of quanta. The last obstacle remained that of being able to have nodes able to ‘bounce’ messages in a safe and stable way through the various portions of the network. From the two studios there are now excellent candidates to win the challenge. Using different methods, the two research groups were able to memorize details crystals, albeit for fractions of a second, the information of pairs of photons entangled, ie ‘intertwined’ particles always in connection with each other. The two devices are able to maintain quantum information without altering it and then redirect it: a fundamental condition for obtaining the long-awaited ‘quantum repeaters’. “Results that extend the functionality demonstrated by the prototypes of these memories in some crucial aspects: that of the rapid response in the case of Chinese employment and greater operational flexibility in the Spanish one“Commented Paolo Villoresi, director of the Center for Quantum Technologies of the University of Padua. “These advances – added Villoresi – are welcome in consolidating the joint efforts to create a global quantum network in which our country is also at the forefront”.
Meanwhile, the European Commission selected a consortium of companies and research institutes to design the future European quantum communication network, EuroQci – quantum communication infrastructure – which will enable ultra-secure communication between critical infrastructures and governmental institutions throughout the European Union. The consortium, led by Airbus, includes Leonardo, Orange, PwC France and Maghreb, Telespazio (Leonardo 67%, Thales 33%), National Research Council (Cnr) and the National Institute of Metrological Research (Inrim).
EuroQci will integrate quantum technologies and systems into terrestrial communication networks in optic fiber and will include a space segment that will ensure full coverage across the Union and beyond. This ‘network’ will help protect Europe’s cryptographic systems and critical infrastructures, such as government institutions, air traffic control, healthcare facilities, banks and power grids, from current and future cyber threats. As early as June 2019, 26 member states signed the EuroQci Declaration, to collaborate with the Commission, supported by the European Space Agency, in the development of a quantum communication infrastructure that covers the entire European Union.
The long-term plan calls for EuroQci to become the basis of a quantum internet in Europe, connecting computers, simulators and quantum sensors, through quantum networks to distribute information and resources with a state-of-the-art security solution. The first to use it will be the quantum key distribution (Qkd) service, which will transmit the encryption keys through quantum communication channels both on terrestrial optical fiber and on space laser links. “The use of quantum photonic states makes the distribution key immune to vulnerabilities, unlike the solutions currently used” assure companies and research institutions of the consortium.
In particular, the study, which will last 15 months, defines the details of the system end-to-end and the design of the ground segment to support the Qkd service and provides for the development of a detailed roadmap, which includes the costs and timing of each implementation phase. The study will also support the European Commission in building an advanced Qci testing and validation infrastructure, including standards, with the aim of launching a EuroQci pilot project by 2024 and an initial operational service by 2027.
The consortium will benefit from the complementarity of its members, which includes large systems integrators, telecom and satcom operators, and service providers along with research institutes. The study will leverage and enhance the existing contributions focused on various quantum projects, carried out by each member of the consortium, and will benefit from the vast experience in the field of the Italian quantum backbone thanks to the CNR and the INRIM.
“The birth of the EuroQCI consortium sees Leonardo alongside leading partners in defining the future European quantum network. An important step for the continent’s technological advancement in a priority and avant-garde area ”, underlines Lucio Valerio Cioffi, General Manager of Leonardo. “The central element is the possibility of using quantum technologies to exchange cryptographic keys, thus guaranteeing the total security of communicationsi in the management of a huge amount of data. A technology that has no equal and represents the future, not only in the telecommunications sector but in numerous other areas of application. The possibility of creating a ‘“As the Internet”That allows communication between quantum computers – characterized by greater computing power and speed and quantum sensors of extraordinary accuracy – will allow unprecedented and totally safe capabilities for analysis and prediction on a global scale. A sector, therefore, with enormous potential, in which Leonardo’s skills, enhanced through a specifically dedicated “Quantum” Laboratory in the Leonardo Labs network, will have a central role and a tangible impact for business development in multiple domains: from Cyber Security to Defense Electronics up to Space “.