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China speeds up construction of space-ground integrated quantum network

By Pan Xutao (People's Daily Overseas Edition)    09:32, November 12, 2020
China speeds up construction of space-ground integrated quantum network
Photo taken on April 18, 2019, shows a visitor watching the minitype ground station of China’s quantum communication satellite at the China (Shanghai) International Technology Fair held in 2019. (People’s Daily Online/Long Wei)

Origin Quantum Computing Technology Co., Ltd., one of the over 20 quantum-related companies densely distributed along the 2,000-meter-long “quantum avenue”, or Yunfei Road, in the High-tech Industry Development Zone of Hefei, east China’s Anhui province, has almost been overwhelmed by various capital that came to it in the recent month.

“More than 30 investment institutions came to us, and eventually we chose 11 of them,” said Zhang Hui, vice president of the company. In the past, the man had to toss about the country for financing.

Government departments at different levels have also reached the company to offer help, according to Zhang.

“Many government departments visited our company for investigation and inspection, aiming to discuss and formulate industrial policies and help us solve practical difficulties,” Zhang noted, who has been invigorated by such efforts.

On Oct. 16, the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee held the 24th group study session on the research and application of quantum science and technology.

The session has promoted strategic planning and forward-looking layout for the development of quantum science and technology in China, signaling an important period of development opportunities for the application of quantum science and technology, according to Zhang.

The applications of quantum science and technology specifically involve three fields: quantum communication, quantum computation and quantum precision measurement.

China is among the global leaders in the field of quantum communication.

According to the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), China has made a great number of major new and high-tech achievements during the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020).

Experiments including the quantum science satellite Mozi and the quantum communication line between Beijing and Shanghai conducted by Chinese scientists have enabled the country to build the prototype of the first space-ground integrated quantum communication network, said Qin Yong, director-general of the Department of High and New Technology of the MOST at a press conference held by the State Council Information Office on Oct. 21.

Quantum computation is also an important field for applications of quantum science and technology.

On the whole, China is at the same level with developed countries in the field of quantum computation, according to Pan Jianwei, executive vice president of the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) and academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

The research and development of quantum computers is a hotspot of the current international competition in the area of science and technology.

At the end of 2019, Chinese scientists teamed up with their counterparts from Germany and the Netherlands and realized the Boson sampling quantum computation by feeding 20 photons into a 60×60 mode interferometer for the first time in the world, setting new world records in four key indicators.

There is still a gap between China and developed countries in the field of quantum precision measurement, but the country is seeing rapid development in the field, Pan said.

In October this year, the USTC announced that its research team, in cooperation with scientists from the U.S. and Germany, observed strength compression on single-photon source devices with high purity, high indistinguishability and high efficiency.

The discovery, while marking the first time that scientists directly observed strength compression in the system after 20 years of efforts, has laid a foundation for single-photon sources-based quantum precision measurement and represented an important progress in the field of quantum precision measurement.

At present, theoretical research results in quantum science and technology are adapted for practical use and engineering at a faster pace, while more and more enterprises are joining in the force driving the development of quantum science and technology.

Among the three major fields for the application of quantum science and technology, quantum communication has witnessed the most commercial results and the birth of a lot of upstream and downstream firms in the field.

Compared with quantum communication, the value of quantum computation is yet to be brought into full play through practical applications.

However, quantum computation is regarded as the key engine of the next generation of information revolution, as it enjoys great prospects in such areas as cryptanalysis, weather forecast, oil exploration, as well as drug design.

Although it takes time to realize large-scale application of quantum computation, many companies are speeding up efforts in the field to seize the initiative in the development of relevant applications.

Back in 2015, Aliyun, Alibaba’s cloud computing subsidiary, joined hands with the CAS to start exploration of quantum computation. Later, Alibaba established a quantum computing lab.

In September 2019, the quantum computing lab completed the development task of the first controllable quantum bit.

Quantum precision measurement seems more mysterious compared with quantum communication and quantum computation.

Quantum measurement can help precisely monitor electric current and voltage in power grid. When used in prospection, quantum measurement can enable people to measure the geological composition of the surrounding area during well drilling. In addition, quantum measurement can help conduct accurate analysis of the content of trace substances in blood. 


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