The atom’s quantum information is written onto the polarization state of the photon. Credit: Harald Ritsch

Into the quantum internet at the speed of light

February 4, 2013

Not only do optical fibers transmit information every day around the world at the speed of light, but they can also be harnessed for the transport of quantum information. In the current issue of Nature Photonics, a research team of Innsbruck physicists led by Rainer Blatt and Tracy Northup report how they have directly transferred the quantum information stored in an atom onto a particle of light. Such information could then be sent over optical fiber to a distant atom.

Thanks to the strange laws of quantum mechanics, quantum computers would be able to carry out certain computational tasks much faster than conventional computers. Among the most promising technologies for the construction of a quantum computer are systems of single atoms, confined in so-called ion traps and manipulated with lasers. In the laboratory, these systems have already been used to test key building blocks of a future quantum computer. “Currently, we can carry out successful quantum computations with atoms,” explain Andreas Stute and Bernardo Casabone, both PhD students at the University of Innsbruck’s Institute for Experimental Physics. “But we are still missing viable interfaces with which quantum information can be transferred over optical channels from one computer to another.”

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