The backbone of the Internet is optical cables sending signals back and forth that are decoded into electrical signals for our computers to understand them. In the future though, a quantum network may exist that directly uses the photons, instead of having to convert to and from the quanta of light. Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology have recently developed an optical cable for this quantum network that may bring that future closer to reality.
The photons traveling through a quantum network will be in a special quantum state, which runs the risk of decaying over even short periods of time. This poses a great problem for a global quantum network. What the researchers have discovered though is a way to couple atoms to the glass fiber cable so that they can store the information of the photons for extended periods of time. Atoms have been trapped next to such cables before, but would lose the quantum information too quickly. By applying some useful tricks, the Vienna researchers were able to extend the lifespan of the information to several milliseconds, which is long enough for light to travel hundreds of kilometers.
Potentially this cable design could be combined with quantum repeaters to teleport quantum information across the globe. Usefully, the glass fibers being used in the research can be easily integrated into current fiber networks.
Source: Vienna University of Technology