A global quantum revolution is currently underway based on the recognition that the subtler aspects of quantum physics known as superposition (wave-like aspect), measurement (particle-like aspect), and entanglement (inseparable link between the two aspects) are far from being merely intriguing curiosities, but can be transitioned into valuable, real-world technologies with performances that can far exceed those obtainable with classical technologies. The recent demonstration by the Chinese scientists of using a low-earth-orbit satellite to distribute entangled photons to two ground stations that are over a thousand kilometers apart is a stunning technological achievement—direct entanglement distribution over the best available fiber links is limited to a few hundred kilometers—and a harbinger of future possibilities for globally secure communications guaranteed by the power of quantum physics.
Harnessing the advantages enabled by superposition, measurement, and entanglement (SME)—the three pillars of quantum physics—for any given application is what is termed quantum engineering in general. In many instances, however, the details of the underlying science (high-temperature superconductivity, photosynthesis, avian navigation, are some examples) is still not fully understood, let alone how to turn the partially understood science into a potentially useful technology. Nevertheless, it has become clear in the last few decades that quantum engineering will require a truly concerted effort that will need to transcend the traditional disciplinary silos in order to create and sustain new breeds of science and technology communities that will be equally versed in quantum physics as they would be in their chosen area of technology. In this talk, I will present my vision for unleashing the potential of quantum engineering, taking quantum communications and networking as an example.