Using photons to manage data

November 2, 2011 By Brian Murphy
U of A engineering professor Zubin Jacob wants to refine the optical transmission of information by using a single photon, to allow unprecedented applications in optical information transfer.

Managing light to carry computer data, such as text, audio and video, is possible today with laser light beams that are guided along a fibre-optic cable. These waves consist of countless billions of photons, which carry information down the fibre across continents.

A research team at the University of Alberta wants to refine the of information by using a single photon, the fundamental building block of light that can allow unprecedented applications in optical information transfer.

Zubin Jacob, a U of A electrical and computer engineering researcher, says that rather than spreading data over waves of light, the goal is to use single particles of light, photons.

“Unfortunately, the efficient generation of single photons for practical applications is a serious engineering challenge,” said Jacob.

Jacob and his research team are looking into metamaterials to tackle this problem. A metamaterial is a medium that has designer nanostructures in it, giving it technical capabilities beyond any materials we currently have. “The metamaterial would efficiently collect single photons of light and allow their transmission,” said Jacob. 

At other universities, researchers are looking at attaching single photons to of electrons. The electrons and photons combine to form a plasmon wave that can be transmitted on a metal nanowire.

Jacob says the benefit of working with single for transmitting is the ability to encode much more complex information on an individual particle of . “A single photon could carry encryption codes, which are far more complex than the security password information we currently use to protect sensitive data.”

Jacob says that this technology is at least 10 years away and the products are not aimed at general consumers. “This technology is destined for markets such as the military that requires extremely high levels of data encryption.”

The development in this field of research combining nanophotonics and quantum technologies was published Oct. 27 in the journal Science</i>.

Explore further: Breakthrough for photons in the microwave frequency range

Related Stories

Breakthrough for photons in the microwave frequency range

February 22, 2011

Photons in the microwave frequency range are important in quantum research - for quantum information processors, for example. Now, for the first time, researchers have achieved the controlled production of single photons ...

Study finds single photons cannot exceed the speed of light

June 24, 2011

( -- The rule that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, c, is one of the most fundamental laws of nature. But since this speed limit has only been experimentally demonstrated for information carried ...

Squeezed light from single atoms

June 30, 2011

( -- Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics scientists generate amplitude-squeezed light fields using single atoms trapped inside optical cavities.

Recommended for you

Team extends the lifetime of atoms using a mirror

October 13, 2015

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have succeeded in an experiment where they get an artificial atom to survive ten times longer than normal by positioning the atom in front of a mirror. The findings were recently ...

A particle purely made of nuclear force

October 13, 2015

Scientists at TU Wien (Vienna) have calculated that the meson f0(1710) could be a very special particle – the long-sought-after glueball, a particle composed of pure force.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.