NEWS | Sept. 28, 2020

NRL Designated Navy’s Quantum Information Research Center

By Paul Cage, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Corporate Communications

In March of this year, the Department of the Navy designated the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory as the Navy’s Quantum Information Research Center.

The designation, mandated by the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, allows NRL to engage with public and private sector organizations to enhance and accelerate research, development, and deployment of quantum information sciences and QIS-enabled technologies and systems.

“This designation is a feather in the cap for NRL,” said NRL director of research Bruce Danly, Ph.D. “The lab has a long history of unique innovations and we look forward to bringing our decades of experience in this area to partner with others in and outside the Naval Research Enterprise.”

The quantum world is a realm so microscopic its sizes are similar or smaller than those of atoms. In this realm, the general rules of physics become so unrecognizable, Albert Einstein described the quantum entanglement as, “spooky action at a distance.” Much of modern physics and many current technologies in widespread use have their foundation in applications of quantum physics in place since the 1930s. However, the application of some aspects of quantum physics, in particular quantum entanglement and quantum superposition, have not yet led to widespread uses, but hold promise for new applications. For nearly 30 years, NRL has been researching quantum systems and their applications.

“Quantum capability across platforms and domains is essential, and whoever masters it first will have the edge in Great Power Competition. For the Navy, when I think about our mission sets, and I think about the things quantum can do to revolutionize and transform our way of business, there are many areas where quantum can have an impact,” said Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Lorin Selby during remarks at the Million Dollar International Quantum U Tech Accelerator, where 36 of the world’s top university teams pitched their proposals to advance quantum enabling technologies in the areas of timing, sensing, communications, and computing Sept. 1.

Selby, who has served on numerous submarines during his career, used an example of a submarine going on patrol and not having to come to periscope depth to update timing systems with GPS.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if you could do that without having to listen to a satellite that’s sending timing signals down,” Selby said. “Quantum will allow you to do that. So if we could get quantum timing down, it means you can set it at the beginning of your mission and forget it for months and still be accurate enough to do the things we need to do for navigation, for targeting, all those kinds of things.”

NRL is also building bridges with industry and continuing a close collaboration on quantum memory with academia. Earlier this month, NRL entered into an educational partnership agreement with the University of Maryland’s Quantum Technology Center to identify and pursue opportunities related to quantum technologies research.

“NRL and the Quantum Technology Center have much synergism between our programs that bodes well for a successful joint research and collaboration of value in quantum technologies,” said Gerald M. Borsuk, Ph.D., associate director of research for the systems directorate at NRL. “We look forward to increased interactions with academia and industry to bring quantum technologies to reality for the Navy.”

Quantum information science may offer vast technological improvements in computing, sensing, and communication. NRL scientists continue to look for dividends in these areas, such as solving computer problems in minutes that otherwise could take a lifetime, or saving the lives of submariners with more precise locations, or more secure, virtually unhackable communications for Sailors and Marines.

“NRL makes possible the ability to work on long-term research while also taking big scientific risks,” Danly said. “Finding a new architecture or new method of performing quantum information or sensor techniques that we can demonstrate here and then begin to transition to a practical technology would be a big win.”

About the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

NRL is a scientific and engineering command dedicated to research that drives innovative advances for the Navy and Marine Corps from the seafloor to space and in the information domain. NRL is located in Washington, D.C., with major field sites in Stennis Space Center, Mississippi; Key West, Florida; and Monterey, California, and employs approximately 2,500 civilian scientists, engineers and support personnel. To learn more, visit