Latest quantum breakthroughs revealed

Quantum cryptology, quantum computing advance

Advances in quantum computing and cryptography are coming fast and furious.

Researchers from across Europe have detailed their efforts to build the largest quantum key distribution network to date in the June edition of the New Journal of Physics.   Quantum cryptography is seen as a key advance in the battle against hacking and cybercrime.

logo for SECOQC
Some 41 research outfits and companies, including the University of Vienna and Siemens, secured telephone conversations and videoconferencing via quantum cryptography over an eight-node mesh network late last year. The SEcure Communication network based on Quantum Cryptography (SECOQC) exploited the quantum mechanical nature of photons to distribute cryptographic keys for accessing encrypted data.  In their paper, the researchers write: "We have put forward, for the first time, a systematic design that allows unrestricted scalability and interoperability of QKD [quantum key distribution] technologies."

[For another interesting development on encryption, check out this Forbes piece on an IBM researcher's breakthrough algorithm for homomorphic encryption that could one day better secure cloud computing and more. ]

solid-state quantum processor

Separately, Yale University researchers have crafted what they say is the first solid-state quantum processor (pictured here; image by Blake Johnson), a key step toward building quantum computers. They've also outlined in an article in the journal Nature how they used a two-qubit superconducting chip to run basic algorithms, such as search, to demonstrate quantum information processing.

Significant is that this demonstration shows quantum tasks being undertaken with a somewhat regular processor vs. with "single nuclei, atoms and photons," says Robert Schoelkopf, a Yale professor. The solid-state device shows progress in making qubits last longer (a whole microsecond!) by retaining their quantum state. Next up for the researchers is making them last even longer so that more complex algorithms can be run.

"We're still far away from building a practical quantum computer, but this is a major step forward," Schoelkopf says in a statement.

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