Nick Peters ’00 recently received a 2012 Edison Patent Award from the Research and Development Council of New Jersey.
Along with three other scientists at the New Jersey-based company Applied Communication Sciences, Peters was rewarded for his work in distributable quantum relay architecture. He, with his team, developed a process of transmitting quantum signals through a fiber-optic network.
“I visited one of Edison’s labs several times growing up with my family and on school field trips to Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum,” Peters said. “Like Archimedes, Edison was a legendary inventor, so it is a surprise and an honor to win an award named after him.”
The concept of quantum computing uses photons, the smallest unit of light, to encode information and transmit them over distances. Computers based on this technology can perform calculations much faster than conventional computers. The problem, according to Tom Chapuran, a senior scientist at Applied Communication Sciences, is the weakness of the photons.
In an interview recorded by the Research and Development Council, Chapuran explained the team’s invention using a sports analogy.
“There is a technique called quantum teleportation that can take the information on a photon and transport it to a different photon, in much the same way an athlete can relay a baton to a fresh athlete, who can then carry it around a track,” Chapuran said. “What we’ve tried to do is take this idea and find ways to apply it to a practical telecom network, and that’s what our invention is about.”
Peters expressed hope that this new technology could be used to develop quantum-based security keys online, increasing the security of online transactions.
“In the longer term, it could be used to make a quantum internet, connecting quantum computers,” he said. “The significance of quantum computing is that it can efficiently solve problems thought to be intractable using conventional computers.”
Peters credited much of his success to the early work he completed as an undergraduate student at Hillsdale. He said the skills taught to him at the college allowed him to continue learning after his graduation. He also attributes much of what he learned to the research conducted for his senior thesis.
“Although at the time, writing a senior thesis seemed like a distraction from doing well in my classes, it has turned out to be one of the most valuable aspects of my undergraduate education,” Peters said. “The senior thesis process was a first introduction to what goes into professional science.”
Peters also talked about the role his father, Professor of Physics Jim Peters, played in his education at Hillsdale.
“My father, academic advisor, and thesis advisor, Jim Peters, was my first mentor in life as well as in science. What I learned from him in the lab and classroom has had a huge impact on where I am today,” he said.
Jim Peters expressed pride in his son’s accomplishment.
“I feel extremely fortunate to have had Nick in my classes, in subjects that we love, to see him grow through the years, and now to watch him add new knowledge to his field,” Jim Peters said.