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Researchers are pushing to make Chicago a leader in quantum computer and the fight against hacking

Researchers from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign connect with researchers in the Chicago area to create a network that can ultimately pave the way for non-hacked communication.

The effort is part of a print from national laboratories and universities in the state to establish Chicago as a leader in an emerging field of physics and technology called quantum technology.

Quantum research involves studying matter and energy to the minimum scale. Experts say that advances in the field can have far-reaching consequences, from eliminating the risks of cyber security to speed up drug discovery. The field has received attention from technical giants and federal government, but so far most breakthroughs in quantum science have taken place in the laboratory.

This is where this project from the Chicago area researchers is trying to make progress. 1

9659005] The researchers plan to use a 30-mile long unused network of high-speed optical fiber extending between the Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont and the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia. Light particles will travel back and forth on the underground fiber between the objects at each lab. That connection – called entanglement – allows communication between the two objects without moving them.

Imagine a magnet at Argonne pointing in a certain direction, says David Awschalom, professor at the University of Chicago and Argonne who heads the project. The network can be used to teleport information about the direction the magnet points to Fermilab.

"It's called teleporting information because we move the information, not the object itself," says Awschalom.

Here is the kicker: If someone looked – or hacked – the information communicated, the information would be changed or destroyed.

The project is run by the Chicago Quantum Exchange, launched last year by the University of Chicago, Argonne and Fermilab. U. of I. announced Tuesday that it will be a part of the effort.

U. of I. also plans to invest $ 15 million to establish the Illinois Quantum Information Science and Technology Center.

Some research students in the physics department dabble in quantum studies, said Provost Andreas Cangellaris. But the school plans to develop graduate education and basic courses in the area. It is also planning to employ at least eight more faculty members in the field for the next four years. Cangellaris said that the department currently has more than 25 faculty members whose research is relevant to quantum physics.

Cangellaris acknowledges that the labor market for graduates with quantitative skills is still in its infancy. But the opportunities for talent trained in this area range across industries, he says.

"As research progresses, demand for this talent will grow rapidly," said Cangellaris.

With interest from the federal government and well-capitalized tech companies increasing, some experts expect growth to start soon.

White House held a summit on quantum science and the House of Representatives approved a bill that required more than $ 1 billion to go to research in the area. In addition, Google, Microsoft and IBM have launched quantitative research efforts.

Researchers in the field work to understand the properties of atoms, which often behave in ways that counteract people's normal physical perception.

Awschalom explained it as follows: If you threw a basketball on a wall, you would be sure that the ball would bounce back.

"If I told you in a quantum world that if you threw a basketball against a wall it would go through, you would say," It's ridiculous, "he said." Things that happen all the time. "

] amarotti@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @ AllyMarotti

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