Amazon & De Beers to Power Quantum Networks With Synthetic Diamonds

Diamond-enabled quantum networking through a collaboration between AWS and De Beers subsidiary Element Six could bring enhanced communication and data security in fields such as finance, healthcare, and defense.

Amazon & De Beers to Power Quantum Networks With Synthetic Diamonds
Anatolii Riepin / Alamy Stock Image

Amazon Web Services’ Center for Quantum Networking has joined forces with De Beers Group’s Element Six division to develop synthetic diamonds that can act as a node in quantum networks, according to a blog post from AWS and Element Six.

Researchers will use diamond memory nodes to allow quantum communication to travel long distances without breaking down. The subatomic matter of diamonds makes this advance in data delivery possible.

“The collaboration between AWS and Element Six aims to develop a scalable synthetic diamond solution that could be used to advance the development of quantum technologies -- including secure networks, sensors, or computers -- in the future,” says Daniel Twitchen, executive director of business development and technologies sales at Element Six in an interview with Network Computing.

Because natural diamonds lack the purity to scale quantum memories, researchers are developing synthetic diamonds, according to Bart Machielse, senior research scientist at AWS in an interview with Network Computing.

“The same growth techniques that are used for many materials in the semiconductor industry are used to grow these diamonds,” Machielse says. “These diamonds can be made with levels of purity and in shapes that don’t exist in nature – making it a powerful tool for optimizing the diamond host for quantum memories.”

New Techniques for Diamond Development

AWS and Element Six will develop new techniques for developing ultrapure diamonds with the shape, smoothness and crystalline properties that allow them to be converted into devices that host quantum memories, Machielse explains.

Synthetic diamond allows quantum information to be distributed over long distances, he adds. That capability is lacking with classical repeaters in traditional computing.

“Currently there exists no device capable of extending this range, as classical repeaters (the amplifiers used to extend the range of the existing internet) disrupt quantum information as it passes through them,” Machielse says. “We hope to supplement these classical repeaters with quantum repeaters, potentially made out of synthetic diamond,” Machielse says.

Diamonds with atomic defects can help develop next-generation technologies in quantum networking and communications. Specifically, Element Six uses high-purity plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD)-grown diamonds, Twitchen says.

“Continuing to invest in PECVD (plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition) diamond technology will be critical to enabling synthetic diamond’s utilization for quantum applications,” Twitchen says. “Additionally, improving control over the types of defects created and material incorporated during diamond growth, widening the different morphologies of diamonds which can be mass produced, and streamlining the cost of their manufacture will be critical to the advancement of this field.” 

The requirements of memory qubits make diamonds a good fit for developing quantum repeater memories, says Gabriella Sciarrone, head of marketing at Element Six. Qubits are the basic unit of information in quantum computing and can exist in multiple dimensions compared with a bit, which must exist as a 0 or a 1. Meanwhile, quantum repeaters transfer information from photons onto a stationary memory qubit, which can store and correct information, according to Sciarrone.

“Due to the specific technical requirements of memory qubits, color centers in diamond have emerged as leading candidates to enable quantum repeater memories,” Sciarrone says. “Diamond hosts many different color centers and these engineered ‘defects’ can change the way it interacts with light.”

Quantum Computing Could Secure Information Transfer

Quantum technology could be particularly helpful in network security because the ability to distribute quantum information over long distances makes secure communication possible, according to Machielse.

“Quantum information can be used to distribute messages in a tamper-evident manner, enabling ‘secure’ communication,” Machielse says. “It can also be used to entangle or connect different quantum computers or sensors -- enabling an exponential increase in their effectiveness.”

Quantum networking enables more secure information transmission, a feature that will make the technology attractive for the enterprise market, he suggests.

“This technology is also not vulnerable to attack by quantum computers or any other known computation technology,” Machielse says. “As such, a quantum network will provide a tool for protecting our information transfer from this nascent computing technology.”

These capabilities for secure quantum networks could be attractive to network architects in the future, according to Machielse.

“This research will bring quantum networks closer to market and provide AWS and its customers access to a new, security enhancing technology,” Machielse says. “This is a new form of information exchange that many network architects are likely not thinking about yet, but which will be possible in the coming years.”

The Future of Diamond-Enabled Quantum Computing

The collaboration between AWS and Element Six in diamond-enabled quantum computing could shape the future of the internet, according to Sciarrone.

“The potential of this new technology developed through the joint efforts of AWS and Element Six could provide the backbone for our future internet, enabling secure and private communication,” Sciarrone says.

Future applications for diamond-enabled quantum networking include securing sensitive information against eavesdropping and hacking in defense, finance, healthcare, and telecommunications, Sciarrone says. It could also boost computational power for drug discovery, materials science, and cryptography, she adds.

In addition, quantum networking can lead to a quantum Internet of Things to allow devices to communicate securely, Sciarrone says. It can also enhance communication and security for smart cities and transportation for interconnected IoT devices.

The defects found in diamonds hold potential for developing quantum networks, according to Roger Kay, founder and president of market intelligence firm Endpoint Technology Associates.

“Controlled defect infusion in a rigid lattice of pure diamond is a great physical structure for scaling quantum instances to a manufacturing level,” Kay says. “The fact that the researchers have gotten these materials to maintain their state long enough to be measured is a clear advance.”

With the development of diamond-based quantum networking technologies, network architects may need to incorporate quantum networking elements that include quantum repeaters, quantum memories, and quantum routers, Sciarrone says.

“Quantum networking technologies encompass a wide spectrum of know-how, including quantum physics, materials science, and network engineering,” Sciarrone says. “This will generate opportunities for network architects to collaborate with experts in these domains to design and implement quantum networking technologies effectively.”

About the Author(s)

Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter

Brian T. Horowitz is a technology writer and editor based in New York City. He started his career at Computer Shopper in 1996 when the magazine was more than 900 pages per month. Since then, his work has appeared in outlets that include eWEEK, Fast Company, Fierce Healthcare, Forbes, Health Data Management, IEEE Spectrum, Men’s Fitness, PCMag, Scientific American and USA Weekend. Brian is a graduate of Hofstra University. Follow him on Twitter: @bthorowitz.

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