The endeavor for the field of quantum information and technologies is to harness the unique properties of quantum mechanics to create new technology and devices, which can perform tasks that are not possible with classical systems. This includes the development of quantum computers, quantum sensors, quantum communication systems and the understanding of the fundamental principles of information processing with quantum systems.
Quantum technologies have the potential to revolutionize a wide range of industries. At present, we are already seeing its practical application in areas such as cryptography, sensing, and computing. In the future, we can expect to see even more widespread use of these technologies, potentially leading to breakthroughs in topics such as drug discovery, financial modeling, and climate modeling. However, these developments are still in their early stages and significant research and investment will be needed to fully realize their potential. The main hurdle is the difficulty in creating and manipulating large numbers of quantum bits (qubits), which is necessary for many quantum computing tasks. Additionally, the fragility of quantum states (decoherence) makes them difficult to transmit and detect, which is another major obstacle in the development of long-distance quantum communication systems.
In 2022, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three researchers “…for experiments with entangled photons, establishing the violation of Bell inequalities and pioneering quantum information science". This distinction has managed to overcome the doubts about the applicability of quantum phenomena in solving societal issues.
One of the most exciting areas of quantum information and technology is quantum cryptography, which uses the principles of quantum mechanics to ensure the security of communication by exploiting the properties of quantum states. This includes the development of quantum key distribution (QKD) systems, allowing two parties to share a secret key with unconditional security. The growing concern about cybersecurity has promoted the relevance of quantum cryptography, as it has the potential to revolutionize the way we secure our data and protect our privacy.
Another important topic is quantum computing, as it can perform certain calculations much faster than classical computers and has the potential to solve problems that are currently unsolvable.
Other developing areas include quantum networks which use quantum technologies to create secure and efficient communication channels between different nodes. This has the potential to be used in applications such as quantum internet and quantum communication satellite.
Instituto de Telecommunicações (IT) is a pioneering national institution in the synergetic merge of information theory and quantum physics, aiming at increased security in communication systems. Nowadays, a large number of researchers spread over several groups nationwide, address this theme with cutting-edge results. For example, the implementation of fiber-based optical quantum communication systems at IT Aveiro, an entanglement of photons for free space communications, and the development of new quantum cryptography protocols at IT Lisboa. The researchers involved in this work will be the scientific pillars of the Portuguese consortium responsible for the national contribution to the development, until 2026, of the European Quantum Communication Infrastructure Initiative (EuroQCI). This initiative intends to safeguard sensitive data and critical infrastructures by integrating quantum-based systems into existing communication infrastructures, providing an additional security layer, and reinforcing the protection of Europe’s governmental institutions contributing to European digital sovereignty and industrial competitiveness.
Overall, the future of the field is very promising, and I believe that we are on the cusp of a new era in which quantum technologies will play a major role in shaping our world and become more widely adopted and integrated into our daily lives. As a researcher, I am very excited to see what the future holds and to be a part of it.