The Navy on Monday revealed it designated the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) as the Navy’s Quantum Information Research Center, allowing it to engage with organizations to enhance research on quantum information sciences and technology.

The fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act mandated this designation, which occurred in March.

Allan Bracker (right), a U.S. Naval Research Laboratory research chemist, discusses quantum information research with Office of Naval Research Executive Director E. Anne Sandel, NRL Commanding Officer Capt. Ricardo Vigil, and Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Lorin Selby on Sept. 14, 2020, inside NRL’s Epicenter Facility in Washington, D.C. (Photo: U.S. Navy by Jonathan Steffen)

“This designation is a feather in the cap for NRL. 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,” NRL Director of Research Bruce Danly said in a statement.

The designation specifically allows NRL to engage with public and private sector organizations to accelerate and enhance research, development, and deployment of quantum information sciences (QIS) and QIS-enabled technologies and systems.

The quantum realm is where sizes are similar or smaller than atoms where the general rules of physics are unrecognizable. While many aspects of quantum science are used regularly, 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,” NRL said.

The lab had already been researching quantum systems and applications for almost 30 years.

“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,” Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Lorin Selby said on Sept. 1 during remarks at the Million Dollar International Quantum U Tech Accelerator.

At the time Selby named one potential application of submarines on patrol not having to come up 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. 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,” he added.

Separately, earlier in September, NRL entered into an educational partnership 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,” Gerald Borsuk, associate director of research for the systems directorate at NRL, said.