The Chips and Science Act is aiding the work of a new Washington, D.C.-area quantum research consortium that is trying to create and operate a quantum network as a regional test bed, the body’s executive director said on Jan. 18.

La Vida Cooper, who heads the Washington Metropolitan Quantum Network Research Consortium (DC-QNet), said the new law signed by President Biden in August helped facilitate contacts between the consortium and existing quantum networks in New York, Boston, and the southeastern United States. The consortium is now holding conversations with some of those networks.

“We would like to connect our regional D.C. metro network with some of the regional networks here in the U.S.,” Cooper said at a quantum event sponsored by ATARC. “Some of these are federally funded national labs. With the Chips and Science Act, we really have an opportunity to lean into executing…and getting an early start on some of our long-term goals.”

The Chips and Science Act includes $81 billion over five years for the National Science Foundation (NSF), a portion of which is designated for a new NSF technology innovation directorate. The legislation contains an “initial list of key technology focus areas” for the new directorate.

Quantum information science and technology was listed as the third highest priority, behind only artificial intelligence and high performance computing. Congress passed the legislation in August.

Just two months earlier, in June, the DC-QNet had been publicly announced. It consists of six Federal agencies whose mission is to create, demonstrate, and operate a quantum network as a regional test bed.

To that end, the consortium is researching “enabling components for quantum networks,” exploring critical “infrastructure for quantum networks,” and engaging in “early-stage quantum network experimentation,” Cooper told MeriTalk separately.

The Federal agencies involved in the effort are the Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory, Naval Research Laboratory, Naval Observatory, National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Security Agency, and NASA. Additionally, the Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific and the Air Force Research Laboratory will participate as out-of-region affiliates.

The consortium is entering a quantum research field that remains in its early stages. While the Federal government continues to invest heavily in quantum research to ensure the United States becomes the global innovation leader in this emerging discipline – ahead of rivals such as China – experts say the technology for applications is still largely unavailable.

In her presentation, Cooper said the consortium is making steady progress towards establishing its initial operating capability for the test bed infrastructure and has formed three working groups, including one that has developed a portfolio of experiments and is working on publishing early results.

In the near term, the consortium’s technical objectives include characterizing fiber, conducting quantum interference demonstrations, and building towards entanglement distribution demonstrations between nodes.

The consortium is taking a cross-government synergistic approach. The results could one day enable future quantum sensing, quantum computing early-stage applications, and other quantum information science innovations, Cooper told MeriTalk.

“The DC-QNet is making excellent strides toward its primary goal of implementing a regional quantum networking testbed,” she said. “The consortium’s accomplishments to date are empowering federal scientist and engineers to formulate and conduct fundamental demonstrations to realize mission enabling quantum-enhanced future capabilities for their departments, agencies, and the nation.”

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