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What is Quantum Technology? (Explained in Plain English)

Quantum Technologies Are Here

The next great advancements will be powered by quantum technologies and will be exponentially more advanced than even the fastest, smartest systems we have in place today, catapulting breakthroughs in both the public and private sectors.

Quantum computing, in particular, promises to completely disrupt the way we process information and will allow us to address problems that even the most powerful classic supercomputers would never solve, from the chemistry behind pharmaceutical discoveries to major challenges in code breaking and materials science.

This article aims to provide a clear and concise understanding of quantum technology, its underlying principles and various applications, such as computing and internet speeds. Hopefully this article will break down complex concepts in plain English, and showcase the potential impact of quantum technology in everyday life.

What is Quantum Technology?

Quantum-based communications reproduce a naturally occurring phenomenon in which light particles (photons) can be linked or “entangled” such that any change in one of the photons is instantaneously mirrored by its “twin” even when they are separated by great distances.

In contrast to conventional computing and networking, which rely on sequential processing, entangled photons called “qubits” can be used to process multiple parallel paths of data at the same time. Therefore, quantum technologies hold the promise of breaking through current physical limits on existing computing, networking and sensing technologies.

What this all means is a future of fast, accurate resolution of problems that even the most advanced supercomputers can’t solve today.

what is quantum

Quantum Communication and Internet Speeds

In 2010, EPB, Chattanooga, Tennessee’s municipal electric provider and fiber optics-based communications provider, set a new standard in preparing for the future when it launched America’s first community-wide, one gigabit-per-second internet service to every home and business in its 600-square-mile territory.

Meanwhile, quantum networking pioneer Qubitekk was putting its years of research in quantum entanglement to practical use through the development of a quantum-based encryption technology with the goal of establishing a paradigm-shifting, new standard for security against cyberthreats.

In 2017, EPB and Qubitekk collaborated to participate in an R&D 100 Award-winning effort with Oak Ridge and Los Alamos National Laboratories that ran this quantum encryption technology across real-world fiber optic loops that EPB established between some of its electric substations.

The partnership succeeded in sharing qubits across this real-world fiber optic environment which led EPB and Qubitekk to build upon that success by establishing EPB Quantum NetworkSM powered by Qubitekk, a comprehensive quantum network solution.

As a result of this work, EPB Quantum Network integrates EPB’s established 100% fiber optic network with Qubitekk’s Bohr IVTM platform to provide innovators access to the latest equipment and technology to generate, distribute and measure qubits in order to run their quantum technologies and validate their developments.

Ultimately, to speed the development, adoption and integration of quantum products across the marketplace, innovators, businesses, entrepreneurs, researchers, government agencies and universities must be able to connect to the quantum future. That’s what EPB Quantum Network seeks to do by providing a place for public and private sector quantum innovations to be run in a real-world established fiber optic environment.

To keep Chattanooga’s community-wide fiber optic network on the cutting edge, EPB recently upgraded its core network to 100 gig capacity and is more than halfway through a five-year, $70 million system-wide upgrade. As a result of this investment, EPB recently launched America’s first community-wide 25 Gig internet service, featuring symmetrical upload and download speeds and no data caps.

This infrastructure, along with EPB Quantum Network research, helps lay a groundwork for the next-generation quantum internet. The quantum internet is a theorized and much sought-after network of interconnected quantum computers that will one day allow people to send, compute and receive information using quantum technology.

quantum explained

The purpose of the quantum internet is not to replace the internet we know today, but to instead create a co-existent network that can be used to solve specific types of problems. Scientists think it will be particularly useful for problems that involve many variables, such as analyzing financial risk, encrypting data and studying the properties of materials.

Other Applications of Quantum Technology

Quantum technology is manifested through applications in secure communication, disaster recovery through better prediction, computing, simulation, chemistry, healthcare, cryptography and imaging, among others.

Quantum computing can improve research and development, supply-chain optimization and production. For example, you could apply quantum computing to decrease the manufacturing process-related costs and shorten cycle times by optimizing elements such as path planning in complex processes.

What’s more, quantum technologies represent a new frontier to exponentially advance cybersecurity, sensing and next generation computing. This holds the promise for revolutionary benefits in protecting people from cyberthreats, launching a next generation internet and developing new advancements in healthcare, finance and other industries.

For example, quantum technologies can help model new vaccines and medical treatments in a fraction of the time. It can use artificial intelligence to enhance a company’s competitiveness and create interactive educational opportunities through photo-realistic virtual reality. It has the power to translate multiple languages simultaneously and instantaneously.

Plus, quantum-based weather modeling could help issue much more accurate warnings before tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters happen.

Quantum Mechanics: The Foundation

Quantum mechanics is a branch of physics that deals with the behavior of matter and energy on the atomic and subatomic level. At this level, particles such as electrons, photons and atoms behave very differently from the objects we encounter in our daily lives.

One of the key features of quantum mechanics is that particles can exist in multiple states at the same time. This is known as superposition, and it means that a particle can be in multiple locations, have multiple energies, or have multiple spin orientations simultaneously.

Another important concept in quantum mechanics is that particles are described by wave functions, which represent the probability of finding the particle in a particular state.

quantum technology explained

Quantum mechanics also includes the idea of entanglement, where two particles can become connected in such a way that the state of one particle is dependent on the state of the other, even if they are separated by large distances (as we described earlier).

But let’s talk about how you can recognize quantum mechanics in action. One of the most basic examples of quantum mechanics we see in everyday life is fluorescent lights. Fluorescent bulbs contain electrodes that heat up and eject electrons. These electrons, in turn, bombard a tiny amount of mercury that is also inside the bulb. The collisions cause the mercury’s electrons to jump up to a higher quantum energy state.

Quantum mechanics are also a vital part of the design of many modern electronic devices. Atomic clocks, such as those included in GPS, use principles of quantum mechanics to measure time more accurately than anything we have previously devised. And, technology such as lasers, solar cells, electron microscopes, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) devices and the components used in computing hardware all rely on the principles of quantum mechanics.

Quantum Computing

Quantum computing is a type of computing that uses the principles of quantum mechanics to perform calculations. Unlike classical computers, which use binary digits or bits (either 0 or 1), quantum computers use bits, or qubits, which can be in a superposition of states (like 0 and 1 at the same time) and can be entangled with each other.

This allows quantum computers to perform certain types of calculations faster than classical computers, especially for problems that involve large amounts of data or complex algorithms. For example, quantum computers can be used to factor large numbers, which is important for cryptography, or simulate complex chemical reactions, which is useful for drug discovery.

what is quantum technology

However, quantum computing is still in its early stages of development and is currently limited in terms of the number of qubits that can be used and the level of error correction that is possible. Nonetheless, many researchers and companies are working on developing practical applications for quantum computing in the future.

Here’s a short video on the basics of quantum computing, explained in layman’s terms.

Quantum Sensing

Quantum sensing is an advanced sensor technology that vastly improves the accuracy of how we measure, navigate, study, explore, see and interact with the world around us by sensing changes in motion, and electric and magnetic fields.

Quantum sensors use the smallest amounts of energy and matter to detect and measure tiny changes in time, gravity, temperature, pressure, rotation, acceleration, frequency and magnetic and electric fields. They’ve been commercially available in various forms for more than a half-century; think of a magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, machine, which tracks flips in the magnetic spin of individual hydrogen atoms to peer into a body. But recent progress in the field suggests that such sensors will soon bring a revolution in measurement and signals intelligence — possibly by making it far easier to detect submarines, spacecraft and underground facilities.

Ultra-precise timekeeping is the most important quantum-sensing achievement to date, for it adds precision to all other forms of sensing. Beyond making super-accurate GPS, quantum sensors can measure the shape and gravitational field of Earth to within a centimeter. Such sensing can be useful both for mapping out underground mineral resources and for precisely calculating the trajectories of ballistic missiles and other munitions.

The Future of Quantum Technology

In the realm of quantum technology, we are only in the first couple years of its life. For each individual section of quantum technology — such as quantum computers, simulators, communications, sensors and metrology — there is so much room for improvement.

In the next couple years, Quantum computers hope to process 50 qubits, as well as demonstrate quantum speed-up and outperforming classical computers. Quantum simulators will have the capability to solve problems beyond supercomputer capacity.

But as this technology grows and expands with research and further development, there is literally no end to what it can do to improve our lives in the future. The key is to continue thinking outside the box in ways that we’ve never thought possible before.

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