Team of Researchers from UMD, Duke, and Stanford Awarded $2 Million Dollar EFRI Grant to Study Quantum Communication Networks

Prof. Edo Waks (ECE/IREAP) is the principal investigator for a four-year, $2,000,000 NSF Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) grant: Development of Scalable Quantum Networks Using Ion Chips and Integrated Photonics.  Prof. Mario Dagenais (ECE/UMERC) and Prof. Chris Monroe (Physics/JQI), Prof. Jungsang Kim (ECE/Duke), and Professor Martin Fejer (Applied Physics/Stanford) are Co-Principal Investigators of the project. The goal of their research is to engineer quantum communication networks using trapped ions and integrated photonic circuits to supply core hardware for a scalable, secure and efficient quantum network that can process and transmit quantum information with unprecedented speed and distance.

Utilizing quantum mechanical systems to transmit and process information provides a fundamental advantage over classical approaches, with foundational impact on the fields of communication, networking, computer science, and fundamental quantum physics. A groundbreaking example is the quantum network. In contrast to a classical communication network, a quantum network stores and transmits information using quantum objects such as single atoms and single photons, and by doing so, a quantum network can communicate with unconditional security and anonymity, and can also interconnect quantum computers to form a quantum internet. But understanding these technological capabilities requires the ability to store and transmit quantum information while preserving the delicate quantum state of the system. Ions trapped in electric fields constitute the best quantum memory to date. They can store quantum information for times exceeding tens of minutes, and can also emit single photons, the ideal carriers of quantum information that are entangled with quantum memory. But a number of significant challenges remain before a trapped-ion quantum network can become a reality because Ions emit visible- and ultraviolet-wavelength photons that are not compatible with fiber-optic networks. These photons must also be processed with high efficiency without destroying the delicate quantum signals that they carry.

In this project, the researchers will engineer silicon-chip traps and integrated photonic circuits to overcome these challenges. If successful, the project will provide the core hardware for a scalable and efficient quantum communication network that can process and transmit quantum information with unprecedented speed and distance.

Established in 2007 by the Directorate for Engineering at the National Science Foundation, the EFRI Program seeks to inspire and enable researchers to expand the limits of knowledge in the service of grand engineering challenges and national needs.

Published August 16, 2017