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Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois at Ur­bana-Cham­paign re­searchers and Chicago-area sci­en­tists are work­ing to cre­ate a com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work that can with­stand hack­ing.

The Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois an­nounced last month that it will be join­ing the Chicago Quan­tum Ex­change in its ef­fort to ex­plore quan­tum tech­nol­ogy, an emerg­ing field of physics and en­gi­neer­ing that in­volves study­ing mat­ter and en­ergy at a small scale. Ex­perts be­lieve work in the field could elim­i­nate cy­ber­se­cu­rity risks and fur­ther phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal dis­cov­er­ies.

“This new branch of sci­ence was re­ally born here in Illi­nois,” said U of I Chan­cel­lor Robert Jones. “This Chicago Quan­tum Ex­change is a huge step for­ward in en­sur­ing that the rev­o­lu­tion in in­no­va­tion and dis­cov­ery that will come in this field will be an­chored right here where it all started.”

The ex­change was started last year and in­cludes the Uni­ver­sity of Chicago, the Ar­gonne Na­tional Lab­o­ra­tory and the Fermi Na­tional Ac­cel­er­a­tor Lab­o­ra­tory.

“What we’re learn­ing to do is fi­nally ex­ploit th­ese par­ti­cles, bring them into the real world and de­velop new types of de­vices, ma­te­ri­als and com­pu­ta­tional tech­niques,” said David Awschalom, a Uni­ver­sity of Chicago pro­fes­sor and Ar­gonne sci­en­tist lead­ing the project.

Re­search will in­clude send­ing par­ti­cles of light back and forth on a 30-mile long, un­used net­work of high-speed op­ti­cal fiber that runs be­tween the lab­o­ra­to­ries in the Chicago sub­urbs, Ar­gonne in Le­mont and Fermi in Batavia. The quan­tum com­mu­ni­ca­tion link will be used to test tech­nol­ogy that can be the ba­sis for an un-hack­able net­work, of­fi­cials said. The con­nec­tion can al­low com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween two ob­jects with­out mov­ing them.

“(It) is called tele­port­ing in­for­ma­tion be­cause we move the in­for­ma­tion, not the ob­ject it­self,” Awschalom said.

The Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois also plans to in­vest $15 mil­lion to cre­ate the Illi­nois Quan­tum In­for­ma­tion Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Cen­ter. The school plans to de­velop grad­u­ate de­grees and un­der­grad­u­ate con­cen­tra­tions in quan­tum stud­ies, and also hire at least eight more fac­ulty mem­bers in the field.

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