Laser-like photons signal major step towards quantum 'Internet'

Mar 19, 2013
It is an artist's impression of distributed qubits (the bright spots) linked to each other via photons (the light beams). The colors of the beams represent that the optical frequency of the photons in each link can be tailored to the needs of the network. Credit: University of Cambridge

The realisation of quantum networks is one of the major challenges of modern physics. Now, new research shows how high-quality photons can be generated from 'solid-state' chips, bringing us closer to the quantum 'internet'.

The number of transistors on a microprocessor continues to double every two years, amazingly holding firm to a prediction by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore almost 50 years ago.

If this is to continue, conceptual and technical advances harnessing the power of in microchips will need to be investigated within the next decade. Developing a distributed quantum network is one promising direction pursued by many researchers today.

A variety of solid-state systems are currently being investigated as candidates for of information, or qubits, as well as a number of approaches to quantum computing protocols, and the race is on for identifying the best combination. One such qubit, a quantum dot, is made of semiconductor nanocrystals embedded in a chip and can be controlled electro-optically.

Single photons will form an integral part of distributed as flying qubits. First, they are the natural choice for , as they carry information quickly and reliably across . Second, they can take part in operations, provided all the photons taking part are identical.

Unfortunately, the quality of photons generated from solid-state qubits, including quantum dots, can be low due to decoherence mechanisms within the materials. With each emitted photon being distinct from the others, developing a quantum photonic network faces a major roadblock.

Now, researchers from the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University have implemented a to generate single photons with tailored properties from solid-state devices that are identical in quality to lasers. Their research is published today in the journal Nature Communications.

As their photon source, the researchers built a semiconductor Schottky diode device containing individually addressable quantum dots. The transitions of were used to generate single photons via resonance fluorescence – a technique demonstrated previously by the same team.

Under weak excitation, also known as the Heitler regime, the main contribution to photon generation is through elastic scattering. By operating in this way, photon decoherence can be avoided altogether. The researchers were able to quantify how similar these photons are to lasers in terms of coherence and waveform – it turned out they were identical.

"Our research has added the concepts of coherent photon shaping and generation to the toolbox of solid-state quantum photonics," said Dr Mete Atature from the Department of Physics, who led the research.

"We are now achieving a high-rate of single photons which are identical in quality to lasers with the further advantage of coherently programmable waveform - a significant paradigm shift to the conventional single photon generation via spontaneous decay."

There are already protocols proposed for quantum computing and communication which rely on this photon generation scheme, and this work can be extended to other single photon sources as well, such as single molecules, colour centres in diamond and nanowires.

"We are at the dawn of quantum-enabled technologies, and quantum computing is one of many thrilling possibilities," added Atature.

"Our results in particular suggest that multiple distant qubits in a distributed quantum network can share a highly coherent and programmable photonic interconnect that is liberated from the detrimental properties of the chips. Consequently, the ability to generate quantum entanglement and perform quantum teleportation between distant quantum-dot spin qubits with very high fidelity is now only a matter of time."

Explore further: Interview with Gerhard Rempe about the fascination of and prospects for quantum information technology

Related Stories

Hi-fi single photons

Oct 04, 2012

Many quantum technologies—such as cryptography, quantum computing and quantum networks—hinge on the use of single photons. While she was at the Kastler Brossel Laboratory (affiliated with the Pierre and Marie Curie University, ...

Recommended for you

Progress in the fight against quantum dissipation

Apr 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —Scientists at Yale have confirmed a 50-year-old, previously untested theoretical prediction in physics and improved the energy storage time of a quantum switch by several orders of magnitude. ...

A quantum logic gate between light and matter

Apr 10, 2014

Scientists at Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, Garching, Germany, successfully process quantum information with a system comprising an optical photon and a trapped atom.

User comments : 6

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

vacuum-mechanics
1 / 5 (5) Mar 19, 2013
The realisation of quantum networks is one of the major challenges of modern physics. Now, new research shows how high-quality photons can be generated from 'solid-state' chips, bringing us closer to the quantum 'internet'.
…….
"We are at the dawn of quantum-enabled technologies, and quantum computing is one of many thrilling possibilities," added Atature.

May be or may be not, until we could understand the mechanism which explains the mystery basic foundation of quantum mechanics as follow…
http://www.vacuum...19〈=en
rwinners
5 / 5 (2) Mar 19, 2013
Understanding will not delay actual application of this phenomenon. I mean, this is all about electrons. Bell was playing with them quite a long time ago. He didn't understand the science, but he did understand the possible applications.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (1) Mar 20, 2013
Could quantum internet be used for unbreakable anonymous communication?
johanfprins
3 / 5 (4) Mar 20, 2013
Each photon, on its own, IS a coherent EM-wave just like a perfect laser beam with the same frequency is. Any photon IS thus a mini-laser beam with a limited volume. What they are succeeding in doing here is to ensure that the same source emits photons with identical frequencies and sizes. This is good stuff!
El_Nose
not rated yet Mar 20, 2013
@shotman

yes -- but that would be expensive

============

I fully think that optical computing will be here well ahead of quantum computing. With our current advancement it would be a great investment to create all optical computers first before a true investment in creating full scale quantum computers. After all quantum computers are a natural advance from optical computers so why not start there
christophe_galland1
not rated yet Mar 20, 2013
This is a major achievement, great job!

More news stories

Robotics goes micro-scale

(Phys.org) —The development of light-driven 'micro-robots' that can autonomously investigate and manipulate the nano-scale environment in a microscope comes a step closer, thanks to new research from the ...

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

Turning off depression in the brain

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...