US government reveals plans for ‘virtually unhackable’ quantum internet

31 Jul 2020

Image: © knssr/

This week in future tech, the US government claims it will have a working prototype for a quantum internet within the next decade.

An internet network based on quantum technology is a concept that has been in development for some time as a means of using the laws of quantum mechanics to transmit information with unprecedented encryption.

Now, the US Department of Energy (DoE) has issued a report that lays out the government’s strategy for the development of a national quantum internet. Earlier this year, an 83km ‘quantum loop’ was built in Chicago to establish one of the country’s longest land-based quantum networks.

The DoE is hopeful that the first prototype of a quantum internet will be ready within the next decade, creating something that would be “virtually unhackable”.

“The foundation of quantum networks rests on our ability to precisely synthesise and manipulate matter at the atomic scale, including the control of single photons,” said David Awschalom of the University of Chicago, who is director of the Chicago Quantum Exchange.

Material creates hydrogen from dirty water

Researchers from Tomsk Polytechnic University in Russia and the University of Chemistry and Technology in the Czech Republic have developed a material with significant potential. Writing in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, they revealed the material can produce hydrogen molecules from fresh water, salt water and polluted water by exposure to sunlight.

The developed material is a three-layer structure with a 1-micrometre thickness. The lower layer is a thin film of gold, the second one is made of 10-nanometre platinum, and the third is a film of metal-organic frameworks of chromium compounds and organic molecules.

Experiments showed that 100 square centimetres of the material can generate 500ml of hydrogen in an hour, making it one of the highest rates recorded for 2D materials. Hydrogen fuel is seen as an important renewable fuel – if it is sourced from renewable energy.

One of the study’s authors, Olga Guselnikova, said: “The material already demonstrates a certain absorption in the visible light spectrum, but its efficiency is slightly lower than in the infrared spectrum. After improvement, it will be possible to say that the material works with 93pc of the spectral volume of sunlight.”

Imaging system creates pictures by measuring time

A new method of imaging that harnesses AI to turn time into visions of 3D space could help cars, mobile devices and health monitors develop 360-degree awareness.

Writing in Optica, researchers in the UK, Italy and the Netherlands said they have found an entirely new way to make animated 3D images by capturing temporal information about photons instead of their spatial coordinates. Typically photos and videos are produced by capturing photons with digital sensors, which can then generate an image. But 3D images require two or more cameras to gather spatial information of the scene.

The new method turns one-dimensional data – a measurement of time – into a moving image that represents the three dimensions of space in a given scene.

“The most important way that differs from conventional image-making is that our approach is capable of decoupling light altogether from the process,” said Dr Alex Turpin of the University of Glasgow.

“Although much of the paper discusses how we’ve used pulsed laser light to collect the temporal data from our scenes, it also demonstrates how we’ve managed to use radar waves for the same purpose.

“The single-point detectors which collect the temporal data are small, light and inexpensive, which means they could be easily added to existing systems like the cameras in autonomous vehicles to increase the accuracy and speed of their pathfinding.”

New fabric keeps you cool without electricity

Researchers publishing to the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces have revealed a fabric material that cools the wearer without using any electricity. The fabric transfers heat, allows moisture to evaporate from the skin and repels water.

Researchers previously attempting to make cooling clothing found it was both expensive and required significant amounts of electricity. In this breakthrough, the researchers made the new material by electrospinning polyurethane, a water-repelling version of the polymer (fluorinated polyurethane) and a thermally conductive filler (boron nitride nanosheets) into nanofibrous membranes.

The membranes repelled water from the outside but had pores large enough to allow sweat to evaporate from the skin and air to circulate. In tests, the thermal conductivity was higher than that of many other conventional or high-tech fabrics.

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic