ORNL sets communications speed mark

2/3/2017

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have set a world record in superdense coding, a technique by which electrical particles are communicated, that could have far-reaching implications for internet users and cybersecurity.

The team of researchers recently transferred 1.67 bits per qubit, or quantum bits, over a fiber optic cable, surpassing the previous record of 1.63 bits per qubit, according to a news release from the lab.

A qubit is a unit of quantum information that allows for more information to be transferred than the traditional bit, the unit traditionally used by computers.

The team of Brian Williams, Ronald Sadlier and Travis Humble at ORNL was the first to use superdense coding over optical fiber, a major step in the quest to adopt quantum communication to modern networking technology, the release said.

Optical fibers are often used by internet and technology companies, which means the improvements made by the team are one step closer to practical use, Humble said in an interview.

He said it is best to think of the development in terms of the amount of information that can be transferred, as opposed to comparing the speed achieved to normal internet speeds.

“If I have a cup of water that I’m walking with, I’m not walking faster, but I have a bigger cup,” said Humble, a computer scientist and director of the lab’s Quantum Computing Institute.

That means, for example, that in situations like a crowded fair or festival where internet speeds might be slowed by a large number of people trying to get access on their phones, the speed and transfer of information could be maintained for a larger number of people.

“If I want to transmit the same amount of information, I could do it with half the amount of power,” Humble said.

For now the development is largely experimental, but the group is working on ways to make their research applicable for internet and technology companies, and even the U.S. military. The United States Army Research Laboratory was a supporter of the project, according to the news release, and Humble said the development could be used to help the military more efficiently transmit information.

“This experiment demonstrates how quantum communication techniques can be integrated with conventional networking technology,” Williams said in the news release.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by RACHEL OHM

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