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Smarter, Safer, Faster, Stronger – The Future of Quantum Technology

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Nov 1, 2021 | 9 MINUTE Read

Computers as we know them have progressed significantly in the last 20 years alone. Tasks previously requiring building-sized hardware can now be solved within seconds by devices held in the palm of our hands. Despite this progress, the world continues to change rapidly, bringing new and unpredictable challenges.

That’s where the future of quantum technology – and L3Harris – comes in.

“Quantum science provides an exponential leap beyond the physical limitations of yesterday’s technology,” said Dr. Jim Drakes, Senior Scientist and acting Project Lead on Quantum Information Science and Technology (QIST), L3Harris. “The computers of today are a tangible expression of this transformation in technology. Quantum computing can solve, in seconds, problems like de-encryption and optimization, that would take classical computers centuries to execute.”

Through the advanced technology of quantum science, devices are no longer limited in performance by the constraints of classical components. Rather, quantum technology goes beyond these “classical” limitations as it is based upon the smallest measurable unit and foundational principle of nature.

“We are literally exploiting the unique way that individual matter and energy units, like electrons and photons, interact on a very small scale, and that – along with a great deal of attention to detail – ultimately results in unprecedented performance in real-world devices and systems,” Drakes said.

Legacy and Innovation

L3Harris’ innovation in quantum was sparked when scientists recognized that the company’s existing Acousto-Optics (AO) capabilities – technology that was first developed over 50 years ago – could be used to control quantum operations with extreme precision.

Photons, otherwise known as particles of light, could now be modulated and distributed with sound waves. Advances in this technology resulted in AO cells that support very low noise, drift and cross-talk between quantum bits – key capabilities in the execution of precise quantum operations.

Today, L3Harris is leveraging this legacy in photonics – and its industry-leading commitment to Internal Research and Development (IR&D) – to advance quantum technology in three major areas.

“Our IR&D quantum focus areas include processing, communications and sensing,” Drakes said. “Enhancements across these three areas will provide next-level connected innovations to all of our customers, on land, in the air, at sea, and in space.”

Forward with Quantum: Processing, Communications and Sensing

Dr. Michael Lange, Senior Fellow and QIST Processing Lead, L3Harris, explained that advancements in quantum processing will create the next phase of warfighter intelligence.

“Classical processors link to central processing systems with basic decryption, but quantum design can establish intelligent sensors with data filtering and forward processing to allow for advanced decryption across the entire network of quantum technology.”

He added, “This means real-time, actionable distributed intelligence, which is essential as adversaries continue to develop more enhanced systems.”

In quantum communications, L3Harris is developing mobile distributed quantum networks, which can provide customers with assured information security.

“Every day, classical links are becoming more susceptible to sophisticated hacking and exploitation – a major concern for customers with respect to national security,” said Dr. Tim Burt, Scientist and QIST Communications Lead, L3Harris.

“Advancements in quantum communications exploit quantum laws, allowing for assured communications immune to both jamming and hacking, an incredible advantage in cyber security,” he continued. “These advancements in communications also enable distributed sensing solutions.”

Today, capabilities in sensing are limited by the noise and resolution constraints of current technology.

“Quantum technology allows us to build sensors that are not limited by classical sensor design rules for resolution and noise,” Drakes said. “This paves the way for sensors with extreme sensitivity and resolution and enhances system capabilities for our customer missions in imaging, detection, navigation, metrology and timing, among others.”

At the Forefront of Quantum

L3Harris is also leading research efforts in other quantum markets, including enhancements in quantum computing that would revolutionize not only technical but scientific fields as well.

“The development of quantum computing alone could even minimize the impact of future pandemics by developing virus spread models, designing and deploying confinement measures, as well as developing new versions of vaccines,” said Chris Dorny, L3Harris Principal, Business Development and lead for the Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C).

With capabilities and performance that traditional technologies could never achieve, quantum is the key to exponentially enhance existing systems – enabling customers’ future mission superiority and a safer world, faster.

“We’re driven by innovation and are committed to funding the development of disruptive technology,” said Joyce Hayes, Vice President, Technology Strategy, L3Harris. “The next phase of quantum technology is just the beginning for L3Harris.”

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