AWS, Harvard collaborate to advance quantum networking

AWS Center for Quantum Networking and Harvard Quantum Initiative group have an ambitious three-year agenda to advance quantum technology and develop a quantum workforce.

quantum cryptography
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Amazon Web Services is teaming with Harvard University to further quantum-networking research and development.

Specifically the AWS Center for Quantum Networking (CQN) and Harvard Quantum Initiative (HQI) will team to cultivate projects to develop quantum memory, integrated photonics, and quantum applications that could help underpin future quantum networks and a quantum internet. 

The collaboration includes funding from AWS to upgrade the quantum-fabrication capabilities of Harvard's Center for Nanoscale Systems, which works on nanofabrication, materials characterization, soft lithography, and imaging, and that also receives funding from the National Science Foundation.

The three-year research alliance with HQI is the first partnership AWS CQN has signed since AWS announced it in June. AWS is also running Amazon Quantum Solutions Lab, and offers Amazon Braket service

For its part, HQI is looking to build a quantum ecosystem that brings together scientists and engineers across universities, companies, and government entities. The idea is to advance the science and engineering of quantum systems from high-speed networking to secure communications and ultraprecise sensing, according to HQI.

“The collaborative initiative between AWS and Harvard will harness top research talent to explore quantum networking today,” said Antia Lamas-Linares, quantum networking lead at AWS. “Exploring this potential requires a deep understanding of the industry’s toughest scientific challenges that will lead to development of new hardware, software, and applications for quantum networks.”

In the far future, networking quantum computers will bring a variety of new applications with clustered computers. In the near term  quantum security and privacy applications are relevant for AWS now, Lamas-Linares said.

“One of them is enabling global communications protected by quantum key distribution with privacy and security levels not achievable using conventional encryption techniques,” according to a recent blog by CQN research scientists. “Quantum networks will also provide powerful and secure cloud quantum servers by connecting together and amplifying the capabilities of individual quantum processors.”

Beyond security applications, quantum networks offer other potentially game-changing developments including the so-called quantum internet.

Industry-wide research into quantum technology

Vendors and agencies including the Center for Quantum Networks are looking to build the quantum internet, which it says will spur new technology industries and a competitive marketplace of quantum service providers and application developers.

For example, researchers at the Cisco Quantum Lab recently wrote that beyond communication- and cryptography-related applications, quantum networking can be a key part of developing large-scale quantum computers via interconnecting multiple quantum chips. Also, networked quantum sensors exchanging quantum information collectively have stronger sensing power. In the future thousands or even millions, of devices could connected over a global quantum Internet.

“Another example of a quantum-internet application is privacy-preserving quantum computing, aka blind computing, where a user can remotely access a quantum computer to run a calculation while the calculation itself remains hidden to the quantum computer provider,” Cisco researchers stated. “For instance, a pharmaceutical company can design a drug molecule privately on a quantum computer without sharing the drug formula. These applications bring commercial value and justify developing quantum networking technology,” Cisco researchers stated.

One of the ideas behind the AWS and Harvard work will be to take important next steps in quantum networking. "So not just quantum information, which to some extent, we already know how to do. We can transfer qubits from A to B using photons,” Lamas-Linares said.

“But really, how do we extend the range? How do we address complex topologies? How do we accelerate the development of these future components of the quantum network? For that we need memory, we need routing, we need advance silicon photonics, integrated photonics, repeaters and much more.

"Each one of these components is a research project unto its own. This is why there is such a great potential for academic-industrial collaboration.”

In addition to the technology development, CQN and Harvard are looking to build up a skilled workforce needed to drive quantum-networking development.

With that in mind, AWS will fund the AWS Generation Q Fund at HQI, a new fellowship program for post-baccalaureates, graduate students, and postdocs to train the next-generation of quantum scientists and engineers.

 “We need to get more people getting an education on quantum technologies and bringing that capability to academia, national labs and industry," Lamas-Linares said.

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