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Physicists Create First Reliable Quantum Network

(Physicists in Germany have built a quantum network that can transfer information on a single photon. Insulated fiber-optic cable, from the Fiberoptic Supply Company, is connected to a patchboard June 20, 2001 in Denver, CO.)

Photo by Michael Smith/Getty Images

If you think the Internet is fast now, wait till we get the quantum Internet.

German physicists have created a basic quantum network between two labs that can transmit and store information via a fiber-optic cable at the quantum level. The network prototype features two all-purpose nodes that can send, receive, and store information that shoots between them on a single photon.

It’s all about the quantum bits, or quibits. Unlike ordinary electronic bits that can store either a 1 or 0 value, a quibit can hover between the two, effectively carrying both values. A network featuring quibits could thus carry complex information with an added level of encryption, and do it very, very fast.

Of course, a reliable network carrying broader sets of data is still a ways off, but we’re getting close. “Everything is at the edge of what can be done,” says physicist Stephan Ritter. The question is, once we get a quantum Internet, will the cable guy install it at a greater rate of speed, too?