updated 07:15 pm EDT, Thu April 12, 2012
Quantum networks: light at the end of the tunnel?
A group of German physicists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics has succeeded in building the first working prototype for a quantum network. The network has the ability to send, receive and store quantum data between two different locations using fiber optics. Although only rudimentary at this early stage, the team from Max Planck say that the design can be further refined and is scalable.
The physicists explained that although the network successfully transmitted data with an accuracy of only 0.2 percent, their experiment demonstrated that quantum networks are possible. They achieved the feat by transmitting qubits (quantum bits) stored in a quantum state on single rubidium atoms.
The rubidium atoms containing the information are trapped in a reflective optical cavity from which it is able to transmit its stored information through an optical fiber by emitting a single photon. The photon carries the polarization state of its parent rubidium atom with the process also reversible.
Quantum computing has been a long-held dream of physicists as it has the theoretical potential to outperform traditional binary computers exponentially. Where traditional computers send data in 1s and 0s, quantum mechanics allows for values, referred to as a superposition, somewhere between and absolute 1 and 0.
The team's findings are discussed in the April 12 issue of Nature.