Friday, October 24, 2014

Researchers explore using container ships for quantum internet delivery

Quantum communications promise the ultimate security, since the laws of physics mean any attempt to intercept them will be detected—but so far they only cover short distances. Some say sending data by container ship could be the answer.

Quantum cryptography is one of the most powerfully secure communication systems conceived, relying on the foundations of quantum mechanics to obscure data from prying eyes.

Beaming quantum data over long distances is hard, with citywide networks just starting to emerge. Extending the range would require proposed devices called quantum repeaters, but no one knows how to build them.

Now, Simon Devitt of Ochanomizu University in Tokyo says we can bypass the challenges of putting these repeaters on the seabed and still create a kind of international quantum internet. Instead, container ships loaded with quantum bits could cross the seas and connect distant servers. It may sound like a slow way to transmit data, but it may actually deliver a surprisingly good rate of transfer.

The technology required to store quantum bits doesn't exist yet either, but groups around the world are working on a variety of quantum hard drives. The team calculated that for diamond-based drives, a single shipping container could hold the equivalent of 125 bytes of quantum data, while for silicon-based drives the same space would hold nearly 200 terabytes.

"The infrastructure problem will be a difficult engineering task to solve, but it's much easier to solve it for a shipping container than a repeater unit that will have to be laid on the sea bed across the Pacific Ocean," says Devitt.

For more of the New Scientist story:

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