Using quantum methods to read classical memories offers surprising advantages

Mar 14, 2011 by Lisa Zyga feature
In this basic model of a digital memory, information is stored in memory cells (top row) whose different reflectivities correspond to bit values of 0 or 1. To read the memory, a transmitter shines light directly over a cell. The light is then reflected to a receiver, which measures the value of the bit. Image credit: Stefano Pirandola. ©2011 American Physical Society.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Currently, the data stored in classical digital memories such as CDs, DVDs, and barcodes is read by classical light. But as a new study shows, using quantum light to read these classical memories can bring surprising advantages. Quantum light can read digital data using very few photons, an ability that could lead to faster digital readers and optical memories with larger storage capacities than before.

Quantum physicist Stefano Pirandola from the University of York, UK, has published the study on the quantum readout of classical memories in a recent issue of .

"This is the first demonstration showing that the use of nonclassical light is beneficial for the readout of digital memories, reminiscent of current optical storage devices," Pirandola told PhysOrg.com.

As Pirandola explains in his study, there is an important difference between classical light – the light that is used in practically all of today’s technology applications – and quantum light. In classical light, the states of the electromagnetic field can be decomposed as probabilistic sums of coherent states. In contrast, when this decomposition is not possible, the states of an electromagnetic field are considered to be nonclassical (quantum). Important examples of nonclassical states are those that are entangled, in particular those with Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) correlations. When two modes of light are described by these kinds of entangled states, their position and momentum "quadratures" are extremely correlated with each other.

In the proposed method, a classical digital memory consists of many reflective cells, each of which has two possible reflectivities that represent the states 0 and 1 (the two values of a bit). To read the memory, light is irradiated on the cells, and a detector measures the reflected light to determine each cell’s state. Currently, classical light is used for these kinds of memories. However, when its energy is decreased, classical light can only retrieve a limited amount of information from each cell.

Quantum light, on the other hand, doesn’t face the theoretical limits that classical light does. Pirandola’s calculations showed that EPR transmitters (those that use quantum light) can retrieve much more information than classical transmitters in the regime of few photons. He calculates that the enhancement provided by quantum light can be quite large – even up to 1 bit per cell, which corresponds to the extreme situation where only quantum light can retrieve information, and classical light cannot retrieve any information at all.

Since quantum light can read digital information with significantly fewer photons than classical light, it can greatly reduce the reading time of the memory, resulting in higher data transfer rates. For instance, quantum light could increase the rotational speed of a DVD in such a way that only a few photons are irradiated in each data sector. Alternatively, if the reading time is fixed, the quantum light method can offer increased storage capacity compared to reading with classical light.

“The enhancement will be clearer in the future once quantum technology provides more efficient sources of quantum light,” Pirandola said. “Using quantum light, we could read memories using a few photons per bit, while today we use around 1010 photons per bit. This can give an idea of the possible improvement, but I am not able to give good estimates.”

Pirandola also shows that EPR transmitters can be used in error-corrected memory models, in which each bit of information is stored in multiple cells to provide nearly flawless data readout. In contrast, low-energy classical transmitters are basically useless in this situation because they require many more cells for retrieving a single bit of information.

One other possible advantage for reading with quantum light lies in photodegradable organic memories, which contain confidential information. Faint may be able to read this data since it uses so few photons, whereas energetic classical light would destroy these memories.

“The challenging part [of experimentally demonstrating this concept] is clearly in the [light] source which should be fast and efficient,” Pirandola said. “Despite this, a pilot experiment is within the catch of current technology.”

Explore further: Team finds elusive quantum transformations near absolute zero

More information: Stefano Pirandola. “Quantum Reading of a Classical Digital Memory.” Physical Review Letters 106, 090504 (2011). DOI:10.1103/PhysRevLett.106.090504

4.8 /5 (35 votes)

Related Stories

Shining light in quantum computing

Sep 12, 2006

University of Queensland scientist Devon Biggerstaff is investigating ways to manipulate light in a process that will help shape future supercomputers and communication technology.

Quantum memory for communication networks of the future

Nov 08, 2010

Researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen have succeeded in storing quantum information using two 'entangled' light beams. Quantum memory or information storage is a necessary ...

Better light measurement through quantum cloning

Aug 30, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- "One of the things we have been studying is how the world works on a really small scale," Bruno Sanguinetti, a scientist at the University of Geneva in Switzerland tells PhysOrg.com. "At the quantum level, ...

Quantum electronics: Two photons and chips

Jan 20, 2006

Scientists at Toshiba Research Europe Limited (Cambridge, UK) believe they are on to a way of producing entangled twins of photons using a simple semiconductor electronic device. Such a chip-based source of entangled photons ...

Pure mathematics behind the mechanics

Feb 07, 2008

Dutch researcher Peter Hochs has discovered that the same effects can be observed in quantum and classical mechanics, if quantisation is used.

Recommended for you

Fluid mechanics suggests alternative to quantum orthodoxy

Sep 12, 2014

The central mystery of quantum mechanics is that small chunks of matter sometimes seem to behave like particles, sometimes like waves. For most of the past century, the prevailing explanation of this conundrum ...

The sound of an atom has been captured

Sep 11, 2014

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology are first to show the use of sound to communicate with an artificial atom. They can thereby demonstrate phenomena from quantum physics with sound taking on ...

The quantum revolution is a step closer

Sep 11, 2014

A new way to run a quantum algorithm using much simpler methods than previously thought has been discovered by a team of researchers at the University of Bristol. These findings could dramatically bring ...

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

holoman
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 14, 2011
Seems simple huh ?

But I can tell the transmitter, receiver, and bits are all going
to experience things like unrelated thermal expansion of various components at different rates which if not addressed will cause technology failure.
TabulaMentis
5 / 5 (4) Mar 14, 2011
Just imagine where all of this will lead once we can get quantum light to read information down to the sub-nano, pico, femto, zepto, yocto and etc. scales.
marraco
not rated yet Mar 17, 2011
But it is for optical media?

It would be useless for future DVDs, since even small temperature variations would cause deformations making the media unusable.

It may have applications on optical hard disks, maybe.
PaulRadcliff
not rated yet Mar 23, 2011
I can see, twenty years from now, perhaps even sooner- Quantum Artificial Intelligence. Maybe not surpassing an animal ability, but even that may be smart enough to be very useful. If computer chips get married to human neurons and neural networks, effectively making a cyborg brain, what's next? Super-intelligent cyborg mega minds. Will such advancements be corruptible by nefarious power hungry types?
Of course!! Can you imagine a megalomaniac like Gadhaffi souped up with a Quantum Computing Brain Multitasking Implant. Think of the global chaos such a mad man could cause.
Conversely, a super genius scientist could solve lots of nagging medical problems, discover new, super efficient, energy sources or methods for extracting energy from who knows what! Warp Drive anyone? Probably ways around that light speed barrier, if it really proves to exist. Think of the leaps ahead in technological progress, if such brain enhancements were someday possible. Maybe a helmet brain booster. Cool....
Ralph
not rated yet Apr 09, 2011
I am not ready for super-intelligence, but I do want my Google Brain Interface -- and I want it now. Neuromancer-type fantasies are definitely in my line.