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Around the world, consensus is building that a system to communicate using quantum mechanics represents one of the most important technological frontiers of the 21st century. Scientists now believe that the construction of a prototype will be within reach over the next decade.

It is over this backdrop that the US government is working on developing a “virtually unhackable” quantum internet. The Department of Energy has recently unveiled its strategy for building a “national quantum internet” that would push the US to the front of the global quantum race.

It’s part of the National Quantum Initiative Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in December 2018. 

A report issued by the DOE lays out a blueprint strategy for the development of a national quantum internet, using laws of quantum mechanics to transmit information more securely than on existing networks.

Scientists from the University of Chicago are cooperating with DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois, to try to advance this research on quantum networking, which is a data-communications application of quantum computing. 

Crucial steps toward building such an internet are already underway in the Chicago region, which has become one of the leading global hubs for quantum research. In February of this year, scientists from DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago entangled photons across a 52-mile “quantum loop” in the Chicago suburbs, successfully establishing one of the longest land-based quantum networks in the nation. That network will soon be connected to DOE’s Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois, establishing a three-node, 80-mile testbed. The aim is to create a parallel, more secure network based on quantum “entanglement,” or the transmission of sub-atomic particles, according to

The department said early adopters could include the banking and health services sectors, adding that there would be applications for national security and aircraft communications.​

“Eventually, the use of quantum networking technology in mobile phones could have broad impacts on the lives of individuals around the world,” the statement added.

The agency’s 17 national laboratories will serve as the backbone of the coming quantum internet, which has initial government funding.