DARPA wants a quantum entanglement revolution

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is looking for  innovative research proposals in the intriguing area of quantum entanglement --  a developing component of quantum physics that looks at the behavior between atoms and  photons that could ultimately play a key role in developing security, unbelievably fast networks and even teleportation.  

DARPA’s program, called Quantum Entanglement Science and Technology (QuEST) has the lofty goal of developing revolutionary advances in the fundamental understanding of quantum information science, DARPA said. Specifically excluded is research which primarily results in incremental improvement to the existing state of practice or knowledge, DARPA said.

A great discussion about quantum entanglement with Brian Clegg who wrote The God Effect : Quantum Entanglement, Science’s Strangest Phenomenon can be found here.  In a nutshell Clegg says entanglement “can be used to produce unbreakable encryption. If you send each half of a set of entangled pairs to either end of a communications link, then the randomly generated but linked properties can be used as a key to encrypt information. If anyone intercepts the information it will break the entanglement, and the communication can be stopped before the eavesdropper picks up any data.”  

But that’s just one application. DARPA is looking way beyond that.

DARPA said that  while considerable progress has been made in recent years in understanding the fundamentals of quantum information science on both experimental and theoretical sides, many fundamental issues remain unresolved and many fundamental challenges remain.  

Specifically DARPA said: “We envision a close collaboration between experimentalists and theorists so that novel theoretical concepts related to quantum information science may be developed and validated experimentally. Proposals may address, for example: the nature, establishment, control, or transport of multi-qubit entanglement; the interconversion between different types of quantum information known as qubits,  while preserving coherence and entanglement; understanding the nature of decoherence and the fundamental limits of coherence and entanglement preservation; identification of new problems or challenges where quantum information science is likely to provide a dramatic improvement, and experimental demonstrations of such improvement. ”

Quantum computing uses matter -- atoms and molecules -- to process massive amounts of tasks at supercomputing speeds because qubits hold both the values 0 and 1 simultaneously, and share those values among all qubits. It is based on the laws of quantum mechanics, which look at interaction and behavior of matter on atomic and subatomic -- proton, neutron and electron -- levels. One of the most intriguing areas of research has been in quantum cryptography, which uses photons to carry encryption keys to secure communications.

DARPA has had an interest in all things quantum computing related for years.  Just last year, for example, DARPA gave BBN Technologies almost $3.5 million increment of a $14 million contract to continue work on  military applications of quantum information science. BBN also operates DARPA’s  Quantum Network - the world's first Quantum Key Distribution network. Research on this network involved some testing of quantum entanglement as well. 

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