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FY2009: Quantum Information Science / Enabling Innovation through Quantum Science


False-color images of 1, 2, 3, 6, and 12 magnesium ions loaded into NIST's new planar ion trap
Electrically charged atoms such as those in this picture may be used to build "quantum computers" that could perform information-processing tasks that are impossible with conventional computers. 
Credit: Signe Seidelin and John Chiaverini/NIST

The laws of physics are fundamentally different in the quantum world of atoms, electrons, and photons (light particles) than in our everyday macroscopic world. Exploring and harnessing the special properties of the quantum realm hold promise for new and powerful technologies fundamentally different from many conventional technologies of today.

NIST scientists are world leaders in the emerging field of quantum science. Three NIST scientists have won separate Nobel Prizes in the last 10 years based on their work in the field. Many of the best minds in physics today believe that applications of quantum science will transform the 21st century just as integrated circuits and classical electronics transformed the 20th century.

Proposed NIST Program

Having developed potential components for quantum computers and demonstrated other advances, NIST is proposing to expand further its quantum science program in FY 2009. Several of the projects proposed under this initiative will be in collaboration with the Joint Quantum Institute established by NIST, the University of Maryland, and the National Security Agency. NIST will:

  • begin development of quantum "wires" that use "teleportation" techniques to reliably transport information between the components of a simple quantum computer based on manipulation of atoms, other elementary particles, or solid-state quantum devices;

  • begin development of quantum memory analogous to the random access memory of today's computers to allow more complex logic operations;

  • begin development of methods for transferring quantum-based information from one form (such as atoms) to another form (such as photons);

  • develop an all-optical clock for more precise time and frequency measurement; and

  • exploit the unusual quantum properties of "coherence" and entanglement to provide exquisite physical science measurement capabilities with improved sensitivity, accuracy, and speed.

Expected Impacts

Successful achievement of NIST goals in quantum science is expected to pave the way for:

  • development of powerful quantum computers capable of solving certain types of complex problems that are impossible or prohibitively costly to solve with today's technologies;

  • "unbreakable" encryption of electronic communications to enhance security of national security, financial, and market transactions; and

  • quantum logic clocks capable of providing improved time and frequency for the next generation of the Global Positioning System (GPS) and for tests of fundamental physics theories.

Created August 24, 2009, Updated November 22, 2019