Working Towards a Quantum Internet
Multiple communities have supported the development of the Internet since its inception, and not least among them is the scientific community. The ability to quickly share information with colleagues and institutions across the world is almost a necessity for some fields of science to advance, but in the future, as technology changes, the Internet will have to be reinvented. Luckily researchers are already working on that as those at the University of Innsbruck have successfully demonstrated directly transferring quantum data from one point to another, as a quantum Internet would require.
In classical mechanics, it is possible to copy the state of one thing to another, such as the data on one hard drive to another. Quantum mechanics however does not allow this, so on a quantum Internet data must be transmitted differently, which is what the researchers have accomplished. Using an ion trap, the researchers held a single calcium ion between two mirrors, and with a laser they encoded information onto the ion. With a second laser, the ion was excited to emit a single photon, which then contains the quantum information. After bouncing off the mirrors, the photon entered an optical cable to direct it to another ion trap, to encode the information to another ion.
This is the first time quantum information has been transferred like this, but very likely will not be the last. Once quantum computers are developed and institutions around the world start using them, a means to transmit data from one to another will be needed, and it may operate similarly.
Source: University of Innsbruck