Transporting Stored Light

in StemSocial15 days ago

Imagine a container from ultra-cool atoms of rubidium-87 which stores light carrying quantum information. Now put them on a conveyor belt of lasers and you can bring the container where you need.

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Image by Colin Behrens from Pixabay

If someone just told you about it, you would probably not believe it. But it’s true. A team of physicists led by Patrick Windpassinger from the Johannes Gutenberg-Universitat Mainz was the first to successfully transport light that was stored in quantum memory. While it was just over a distance of 1.2 millimeters it is still a world record.

The researchers also proved that the whole process of transporting light has only a tiny effect on the properties of the stored light. The transported light was placed in a transport “container” which was made from ultra-cool atoms of rubidium-87. Then Windpassinger’s team transported the light over the distance of 1.2 millimeters and took it out of the rubidium. This was not only an exceptional success for physics as a whole but mainly for quantum communication. According to quantum laws, it is not exactly easy to store light in a medium and transport it.

Manipulating stored light that carries quantum information is a major technology to advance quantum communication and quantum calculations. To have quantum communication networks advance, we require optical quantum memories that are capable of working with the quantum information carried by light.

Windpassinger and his colleagues managed to actively control the transport of stored light over a distance larger than the size of the used medium. Some time ago, they developed a process that allows them to move relatively large numbers of atoms and transport them with high precision without substantial losses of the atoms or high amounts of heating of the atoms. To do that, they use an optical conveyor belt which is made from two laser beams.

Now they managed to use the optical conveyor belt to transport containers of ultra-cool atoms of rubidium which stored the light carrying the quantum information. Such stored information can be taken out and used elsewhere. This research should allow us to develop new types of quantum information and other quantum devices.

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