Discovery of quantum entanglement could enable new communication technology • The Register

Discovery of quantum entanglement could enable new communication technology • The Register

Discovery of quantum entanglement could enable new communication technology • The Register

In his cult classic “Ender’s Game,” Orson Scott Card envisioned a world where Earth’s brightest and tragically youngest tacticians could instantly lead armies across vast distances using a device called the Werewort.

While the jury is still out on whether such a device will ever be possible, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DoE) Brookhaven National Laboratory this week detailed a “never-before-seen” type of quantum entanglement, they say, could one day enable powerful new means of communication and computing.

Scientists have been trying to harness quantum entangled particles since the phenomenon was theorized in the early 20th century, and the topic has been a source of heated debate among physicists for decades. However, late last year, three scientists – Alain Aspect, John Clauser and Anton Zeilinger – received the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on quantum entanglement.

A ‘new’ kind of quantum entanglement

Brookhaven’s latest discovery was made while exploring a new way to probe the inner workings of atomic nuclei. The experiments, described in the journal Scientific progressused Brookhaven’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider to accelerate particles to near the speed of light.

Usually the accelerator would smash the gold particles together. This would melt the boundaries between protons and neutrons and allow scientists to study the quarks and gluons — two of the elementary particles that make up the nucleus of atoms — in an environment similar to that of the galaxy’s earliest moments.

But instead of smashing them together, the gold particles were surrounded by a cloud of photons and allowed to pass each other.

According to Brookhaven, a series of quantum fluctuations caused by the interaction between photons and gluons, as they passed each other, produced a new particle that rapidly disintegrated into a pair of charged pions. When measured, these pions allowed scientists to map the distributions of gluons in the atomic nucleus.

In a blog postDaniel Brandenburg, a member of the STAR collaboration who worked on the project, said the technique works a bit like a scan in a doctor’s office, but instead of looking inside a patient’s brain, scientists look at the inner workings of protons.

While taking these measurements, scientists say they observed a curious phenomenon – a new kind of quantum interference.

“We measure two outgoing particles and it is clear that their charge is different – they are different particles – but we see interference patterns that indicate that these particles are entangled or in sync with each other, even though they are distinguishable particles,” says Zhangbu Xu , a physicist at Brookhaven National Labs said in the blog post.

According to Brookhaven, most of the other observations were of entanglement between photons or identical electrons. “This is the first-ever experimental observation of entanglement between dissimilar particles,” claims Brandenburg.

What are the Russians looking for?

Brookhaven was one of three national DoE labs targeted by Russian hackers this summer.

According to Reutersbetween August and September, a group of cybercriminals known as Cold River used phishing emails and fabricated login pages to collect login credentials from Brookhaven, Argonne and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories employees.

The facilities are home to a variety of nuclear research programs, including several related to the maintenance and development of the US strategic stockpile.

While Reuters was able to confirm Cold River’s involvement with the help of five cybersecurity experts using digital fingerprints belonging to the group, it was unable to determine whether the hackers were able to breach the DoE’s defenses.

Cold River has had success compromising high-profile targets before. One of the more of the group recent targets was Richard Dearlove, the former head of Britain’s foreign intelligence agency MI6, whose emails were leaked in May.

A prelude to the quantum internet

The various national laboratories of the DoE have been delving into quantum mechanics for years, including practical applications of quantum entanglement, and have invested millions of dollars in the development of the quantum internet.

While not a rebuttal, quantum networks take advantage of particle properties to encode data more efficiently than is possible using the binary ones and zeros used in traditional computers. That’s the idea anyway.

While efforts to build quantum networks are still in their infancy, several experiments have shown promise. In 2019, Brookhaven demonstrated the transmission of entangled photons over a fiber optic network of about 11 miles. At the time, it was the longest quantum entanglement experiment to take place in the US.

More recently researchers in the Netherlands showed the transfer of quantum information using an intermediate node, a feature they believe is essential to enable the quantum internet. ®

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