New DOE Blueprint to Pave the Way for a Nationwide Quantum Internet

Quantum Internet Blueprint Workshop Steering Committee

DOE Quantum Internet Blueprint Workshop ReportAs modern computers begin to reach the limit of their processing power, quantum computing has the potential to solve more specialized problems that require immensely robust computing. With that potential capturing the imagination of many, a consensus is building that a communication system using quantum mechanics represents one of the most important technological frontiers of the 21st century. To harness the full promise of quantum computing and sensing, we need to build scalable quantum communication networks that can support applications across science, industry, and national security. Scientists now believe that the construction of a prototype “quantum Internet” will be within reach over the next decade.

Toward this end, on July 23 the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) unveiled a report that lays out a blueprint strategy to accelerate research in quantum science and technology, with an emphasis on the creation of a quantum Internet. “The Department of Energy is proud to play an instrumental role in the development of the national quantum Internet,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette said in a news release. “By constructing this new and emerging technology, the United States continues with its commitment to maintaining and expanding our quantum capabilities.”

In support of this and related efforts, the Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) – a DOE Office of Science user facility managed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory – is actively tracking multiple quantum networking projects and collaborating with the research community to help lay the groundwork for scalable quantum communication networks and a quantum Internet. In this interview with ESnet Director Inder Monga, he talks about the future of quantum networking and its role in facilitating quantum information science across the DOE and beyond.

How will the DOE’s quantum networking blueprint impact the development of quantum communications and applications?

Quantum Internet Blueprint Workshop Steering Committee
The Quantum Internet Blueprint Workshop chairs. Top row left to right: Inder Monga (ESnet) and Gabriella Carini (BNL). Bottom row left to right: Nicolas Peters (ORNL), Kerstin Kleese van Dam (BNL), Joseph Lykken (Fermilab), Thomas Schenkel (Berkeley Lab).

Researchers believe that a quantum Internet could have a profound impact on a number of application areas critical to science, national security, and industry. Application areas include upscaling quantum computing by connecting distributed quantum computers, quantum sensing through a network of quantum telescopes, quantum metrology, and secure communications.

DOE’s 17 National Laboratories will serve as the backbone of a proposed nationwide quantum Internet, which will rely on the laws of quantum mechanics to control and transmit information more securely than ever before. Earlier this year I co-chaired the first Quantum Internet Blueprint Workshop, designed to begin laying the groundwork for this complex undertaking. (Details can be found in the workshop report released July 23.) This meeting was a great first step in articulating what challenges need to be addressed in order to create a quantum Internet with a coordinated research roadmap. The diversity of attendance at the meeting itself was an example of how such grand challenges can be tackled with collaboration across DOE national labs, universities, industry, and various government entities, including  NASA, NIST, NSF, and others.

The workshop explored the specific research and engineering advances needed to build a quantum Internet in the near term, along with the path to move from today’s limited tabletop experiments to a viable, metro-to-wide-area, secure quantum Internet. Participants identified four priority research opportunities and five key milestones that must be achieved to build the foundation for a quantum network:

  • Research Priorities
    • Provide the foundational building blocks for a quantum Internet
    • Integrate multiple quantum networking devices
    • Create repeating, switching, and routing for quantum entanglement
    • Enable error correction of quantum networking functions
  • Roadmap Milestones
    • Verification of secure quantum protocols over fiber networks
    • Inter-campus and intra-city entanglement distribution
    • Intercity quantum communication using entanglement swapping
    • Interstate quantum entanglement distribution using quantum repeaters
    • Build a multi-institutional ecosystem to transition from demonstration to operational infrastructure

What role will a high-speed, high-performance, dedicated science research network like ESnet play in facilitating the adoption of quantum technologies?

Inder Monga and Eden Figueroa
ESnet engineers worked with researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University to test quantum entanglement across the Stony Brook campus leveraging existing ESnet fiber pairs, achieving long-distance entanglement of 18 km using an existing ESnet communications fiber network. Since that initial work, Stony Brook and Brookhaven have established an 80-mile quantum network testbed.ESnet’s Inder Monga (right) talks with Stony Brook’s Eden Figueroa, lead investigator of the quantum networking testbed project.

ESnet is a DOE user facility that connects all of the DOE national labs with a high-speed “classical” network built over leased fiber pairs that span more than 15,000 miles nationwide. In order to build an operational and manageable quantum network, we need to research and build new quantum devices and build new protocols and control systems to integrate, control, manage, and monitor those devices and systems to achieve end-to-end communications. While the classical networks will not have access to the secure data being carried by the quantum channel, using the classical network for control and management is critical to a quantum network’s operational success.

ESnet not only brings the existing nationwide infrastructure and connections to National Labs, it also brings its operational expertise and protocol knowledge to work hand-in-hand with the quantum physicists, scientists, and device and system manufacturers to ensure the right mechanisms are in place to realize DOE’s vision of a quantum Internet.

What research is ESnet helping to enable, and what more still needs to happen to make long-distance quantum communications a practical reality?

Just like the first modems developed in the 1960s leveraged the well-established copper-based telephone network to connect teletype terminals and send data at 110 bits per second (compared to 800 gigabits-per-second modems over fiber today), quantum networking technologies are at an early stage of development. Most current quantum networking research uses photons over either fiber or free-space as the preferred medium of transmission.

At this point, there are many significant investments in small but highly collaborative quantum networking research and prototype deployments in different areas of the country, including Brookhaven/Stony Brook, MIT/Harvard/Lincoln Labs, ANL/University of Chicago, FermiLab/Caltech/JPL/Northwestern, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and more.

As researchers across the nation build and test fundamental technologies needed to build the quantum internet, ESnet is helping build the infrastructure and provide support to those projects. For example, ESnet engineers worked with researchers at Brookhaven and Stony Brook to test quantum entanglement across the Stony Brook campus leveraging existing ESnet fiber pairs, achieving long-distance entanglement of 18 km using unique quantum entanglement sources and an existing ESnet communications fiber network. Since that initial work, Stony Brook and Brookhaven have established an 80-mile quantum network testbed. ESnet is also working closely with Stony Brook, FERMI, ANL, and Caltech researchers to see how we can support the infrastructure build to expand the reach of their quantum networking research, and we are in conversation with other exploratory testbed projects.

One of the key building blocks to scale these regional demonstrations is the quantum repeater. The repeater is an essential piece of the quantum network that will enable transmission of quantum information across large distances. Many of the testbeds mentioned above are aggressively building breadboard versions of the quantum repeater, competing with other nations to create a first viable repeater system that can be deployed widely. Each of them have a different scientific approach to the problem, for example, the use of quantum memories, and that diversity of research ideas at this stage is extremely important for us to find the right solution that will scale.

What do you see as the next steps to realizing the goal of building a nationwide quantum Internet?

The blueprint report describes in detail the five key milestones that will demonstrate progress toward the ultimate goal of building a nationwide quantum Internet. Here I provide my own perspective on the next steps that will help us realize this goal.

First, we need capable quantum network devices that blend the quantum protocols with classical control. In addition to the grand challenge of building a deployable quantum repeater, an ecosystem of quantum devices from efficient quantum memory; transducers for quantum sources; high-speed, low-loss quantum switches; and much more are needed. Many research labs across the U.S. are working on these technologies, and the first big milestone will be to take these devices, and reliable quantum entanglement/distribution, from laboratory-level readiness to acceptable field-level readiness. Following the “team science” philosophy of Berkeley Lab, this step will not just involve the researchers and physicists but will require collaboration with engineers who have experience deploying and managing components in the field.

Second, once we have deployable and supportable components, we need to gain experience running and operating these devices. It is wonderful that Brookhaven, Fermi, Argonne, UChicago, Northwestern, Oakridge, Caltech, MIT, and others have built or are planning to build capable free-space and/or fiber-based regional testbeds. We can also think about expanding these testbeds using existing dark fiber from Berkeley to SLAC to Caltech, or Brookhaven/Stonybrook to MIT/Harvard, or the Argonne/Fermi/Chicago regional testbed to Oakridge as the capabilities of the devices expand.

In addition to physical devices, quantum entanglement, and teleportation techniques, the classical networking protocols and techniques to control, manage, and operate the quantum network are extremely important. At this stage of development, it is critical to let a thousand flowers bloom. ESnet, with its practical experience, can help design testbeds, connect these testbeds to quantum applications, and support end-to-end tests to help the researchers focus on the techniques that are most viable and easily scalable across the nation. This principle of co-design has been impactful across the DOE Office of Science projects and I hope will be applied to the quantum Internet efforts as well.

Finally, I remember working on one of the leading multi-protocol routers in the 90s with protocols like X.25, Appletalk, IPX, OSI, and many others that have now faded away. With the many approaches to quantum routing and potential protocols to control these devices, we will need a testbed that allows neutral testing of these various research approaches and maybe even determines the interoperability of the various free-space, satellite, and fiber-based techniques. We will also need to build strong collaborations not only between the DOE labs, quantum centers, and the science applications, but also with other agencies like NASA, NIST, NSF, and others that have investments in this space. This is the only way we can leverage the knowledge and expertise of the broader scientific community to reach the vision outlined in the Quantum Internet Blueprint report.

Interview by Kathy Kincade, Berkeley Lab Computing Sciences


5G For Science: How Research Will Benefit from Advanced Wireless?

5G Andrew

5G is the next-generation wireless network that will give you much faster Internet connections. That means massive files, like high-definition movies, that take you about six minutes to download over a 4G LTE network, could be downloaded in a matter of seconds over the 5G network. And because of its innovative design, 5G is about to change the way things like cars, TVs, and even buildings connect to the Internet.

The Department of Energy’s national labs, sponsored by the Office of Science, are currently working to identify opportunities on how science can leverage 5G and other advanced wireless technologies. The Office of Science recently published a report on its findings.     

ESnet Computer Systems Engineer Andrew Wiedlea helped facilitate discussions and report findings. We recently caught up with him to talk about the benefits of 5G and other advanced wireless technologies for science, and what it will take to make it available for research. 

What is 5G and Advanced Wireless? And, how could science benefit from it?

Floating Robots
Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley researchers unleashed 100 floating sensors to understand how water flows through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta on its way to pumping stations and San Francisco Bay.  The sensors transmitted data to the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center for assimilation and analysis. (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt).

Scientific data movement is on the cusp of a new era for flexible, low-cost deployment of scientific sensors and data mobility. Advanced wireless capabilities offer the promise of solving the “last mile problem” for science, which is creating new ways for scientists to connect data from sensors, vehicles, and isolated locations, with U.S. Department of Energy’s world-class supercomputers. It’s important to note that advanced wireless will not replace high speed scientific optical networks for large-scale wired “backbone” connectivity, rather we will solve the last mile problem through the integration of advanced wireless- and wired- backhaul. 

5G technology is one part of this emerging wireless data connectivity era. In addition to emerging low-orbit satellite constellation non-terrestrial networks, terrestrial millimeter wireless (mmWave), 5G “New Radio” capabilities will be deployed both by commercial vendors and non-commercial entities (using open parts of the radio frequency spectrum-space) to support myriad uses. Because 5G operates over a very wide range of radio frequencies (600 MHz to 27 GHz) and also leverages advances made since the deployment of earlier cellular radio communication standards, such as software defined networking, beam steering, and improved signal processing, 5G will allow users (including the scientific community) to engineer wireless data transmission supporting novel sensing applications for the world around us.

What makes 5G different from previous wireless standards for science? 

accessibility-browsing-5g-business5G is built around three standards, each of which leverages network resources in different ways.  Each of these application models will be leveraged by scientists depending on their needs:

Enhanced Mobile Broadband: The main benefit of 5G comes from a great increase in the ability to spatially reuse the radio spectrum. In comparison to previous cellular network standards, 5G networks will support higher data rates, and an ability to support many more subscribing devices wherever this is needed.  For scientists, this will mean much improved options for sensor networks, Internet of Things (IoT) applications, lower wireless data costs, and (hopefully) less reliance on “sneakernet” or other improvised methods for data collection and movement.

Ultra Reliable and Low Latency Communications: 5G supports deployment modes based around defined service levels, which means users will be able to reserve “slices” of capacity in a way similar to reserving circuits on a wired network. This, combined with other capabilities, will allow 5G to support scientific uses where communications reliability is essential, such as when measurements depend on near-real-time interaction with instrument control systems or as part of operating mobile systems such as unmanned aerial vehicles.

Massive Machine Type Communications: 5G is also built to support deployment modes in support for low power, automated systems.  These capabilities will be of benefit for all kinds of urban applications, but particularly so for scientists leveraging 5G for urban or building applications.  Leveraging this standard, scientists will be able to deploy hundreds or even thousands of small, very power-efficient, sensors throughout buildings or other areas to measure energy or environmental factors.

Taken as a whole, the capabilities provided by advanced wireless (5G, non-terrestrial networks, and mmWave) will allow new kinds of science, both within the confines of the laboratory and outside in a world via commercial and national laboratory dense sensor networks. Both the types and amounts of data generated will greatly increase – as will the scientific opportunities to learn new things.

What role is ESnet playing in creating a 5G network for scientists?

Cori Supercomputer
Advanced wireless capabilities are creating new ways for scientists to connect data from sensors, vehicles, and isolated locations, with world-class supercomputers like the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center’s (NERSC’s) Cori system. (Picture by Roy Kaltschmidt)

ESnet’s mission is to ensure that science collaborations—at every scale and in every scientific domain—have the information and tools they need to achieve maximum benefit from global networks. This mission is not defined by a particular technology. ESnet works to integrate the compute, storage, and analytic resources operated by sites within the Department of Energy complex, and our scientific customers. 

Unlike previous generations of sensor or data infrastructure development, such as the Internet, Advanced Wireless and 5G advances are largely occurring without the US National Laboratory system playing lead roles. The challenge for scientific users is primarily one of connecting wireless technology (when needed) into the toolset made available by the Department of Energy to support US and global science objectives.  

ESnet inherently must support these customer efforts because we operate the high-speed scientific data network upon which the community depends now, and in the future as next-generation capabilities (ESnet 6) come to life.  We are also at the forefront of thinking about next-generation data movement and analytics through leadership roles with the National Science Foundation’s FABRIC program, software defined networking, and other projects supporting the Department of Energy’s future vision for the science laboratory system. 

At the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), where ESnet is headquartered, we are working to develop a community of interest on 5G and advanced wireless applications, and have been using this as a forum to develop ideas, and bring in external speakers to provide technical talks on 5G state of the art.  

ESnet’s Science Engagement Team is also starting to work with the Applied Physics Program and others to test aspects of advanced wireless technology, as well as how we can connect this to ESnet work in edge computing, our ScienceDMZ architecture, and other Berkeley Lab resources.  We have also started to develop research relationships with the UC Berkeley advanced wireless community, especially the Wireless Research Center to explore mmWave capabilities.  Outside of Berkeley Lab, we have been very active in the Department of Energy’s Enabled Energy Innovation Workshop (5GEEIW)  and related discussions for science uses of 5G and future requirements, as well as discussions with other labs and commercial entities about collaboration on testbeds and prototyping use cases.  These efforts will grow over the next year and hopefully, the report just released from the 5GEEIW will contribute to this progress. [link here]

Are there any experiments looking to use 5G? 

Argonne National Laboratory’s  Waggle platform is a novel wireless sensor with advanced edge computing capabilities to enable a new breed of sensor-driven environmental science and smart city research. (Photo by Mark Lopez, Argonne National Laboratory)

Around the Department of Energy complex, many teams are starting to look at the use of 5G to support experiments.  There are also developing applications for inside building and laboratory use as well using unlicensed 5G spectrum—some of this application space is now served by either Wifi or wired connectivity. There is a need for some general networking research to explore how ESnet wired capabilities, such as caching and data transfer nodes, should be deployed as part of wired-wireless interfaces, and to develop patterns for scientific support for projects making use of advanced wireless technologies as part of ESnet support for science.

We, along with Argonne National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and other Labs, are developing ideas for 5G/Advanced Wireless testbed and prototype application testing environments.  At present, the availability of equipment and service is limited, but this is expected to change rapidly as the first generation of 5G handsets and other devices begin to flood the market.

What is the state of 5G now? How long will it be until scientists can access it?

5G is being commercially rolled out by carriers now, and the build-out of this service is expected to take several years.  Other resources, such as IoT 5G toolsets and hardware are also beginning to reach the market from Ericsson and other vendors.  Similarly, non-terrestrial network constellations such as StarLink are beginning to support limited communities of beta-testers, and mmWave resources are also becoming commercially available.  

Thanks to Berkeley Lab IT’s stellar work with Verizon, however, we hope that there will be options over this next year for Berkeley-community access to 5G testing resources, and similar opportunities to explore mmWave or non-terrestrial networks tools as we build relationships and capabilities.  We also believe that opportunities and resources will start to become available over this next year from the Department of Energy, and other funding sources to support science user testing and the uptake of advanced wireless.

How did you get into this work and what do you enjoy most about it?

I got into this area at the start of my career working on satellite mobile telephony, and later with the Department of Defense working on sensors and analysis systems. When I was supporting military forces in the field with analytics, the problem was always how to handle really data thin-pipes, and as part of this, we had a lot of trouble with existing radio, cellular and satellite options. 

As part of the research-support community, I’m most interested in how we can use 5G and advanced wireless technologies to allow scientists to do new things. It is really fascinating to be at a point of inflection, for RF wireless technology and the ability for almost anyone to be able to affordably collect data from the world, backhaul that data globally, and make sense of it.  

I think that we are in a great position to lead the way with open science “out in the world” which will leverage these new technologies and ESnet is a wonderful place to serve that cause.

Interviewed by Linda Vu, Berkeley Lab Computing Sciences