From using drones to transmit quantum particles to new quantum algorithms, quantum communication could be closer than we think. Could drones be the next method for quantum communication? (Image credit: XIAO-HUI TIAN, HUA-YING LIU AND ZHENDA XIE)


Scientists have been researching how to apply the quantum phenomena to build quantum computers and even new methods of communication. A recent breakthrough using drones may get us one step closer to a quantum internet. Researchers from Nanjing University in China have used drones to transmit particles of light, or photons, that share the quantum linkage called entanglement.


Entangled quantum particles have the ability to keep their interconnected properties even when separated by long distances. Scientists successfully replicated this process by using drones to send photons to two locations a kilometer apart. One drone created pairs of entangle particles where one particle was sent to a station on the ground while relaying the other to the second drone. From there, the second drone transmitted the received particle to a second ground station a kilometer away from the first.


The counterintuitive behavior of quantum particles could be used for new types of communication. Scientists hope to create a quantum internet based on transmitting these particles for an ultrasecure communication network. There are already existing networks made with fiber-optic cables and even a quantum satellite that transmits photons across China. Drones could be another source for such networks, especially since they can be moved quickly and are cheap to deploy.


Elsewhere, new studies from MIT and the University of Maryland show how quantum algorithms can be used for nonlinear differential equations, which can then be solved by quantum computers. Researchers from the University of Maryland have developed a quantum algorithm using the Carleman linearization to solve nonlinear differential equations.


This method “maps a system of nonlinear differential equations to an infinite-dimensional system of linear differential equations, which we discretize, truncate, and solve using the forward Euler method and the quantum linear system algorithm.” This could be used to solve mathematical problems on quantum computers, which is where MIT’s research comes in.


MIT researchers suggest one advantage of quantum computers over classical is solving nonlinear differential equations, which are often too difficult or impractical for most computers. Quantum nonlinear equations can logarithmically scale the dimension of the solution space, which is ideal for high dimensional problems like the Navier-Stokes equation and other nonlinear fluids.


We’re still far from quantum computers, but these developments are a step in the right direction. Quantum communication is already being used in smaller networks, so it’s only a matter of time before it's applied to quantum computers to help us solve complex problems or even time travel, but despite what some have reported, it’s debatable whether the quantum phenomena can actually stop time.


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