Quantum physicists from the University of Alberta, Canada, announced this week that they have developed a new technique for storing quantum information into pulses of light.
The physicists created "a new way to store pulses of light—down to the single-photon level—in clouds of ultracold rubidium atoms, and to later retrieve them on demand by shining a ‘control' pulse of light,” Lindsay LeBlanc, assistant professor of physics and Canada Research Chair in Ultracold Gases for Quantum Simulation, said.
Quantum computers will need to not only process information, but also to store it. The University of Alberta academics found a way to store the quantum information within the photons from pulses of light. Photons are the basic particles in a ray of light and have zero rest mass.
The pulses of light that are used to store the quantum information pass through “clouds of ultracold rubidium atoms” to make the system more stable. In general, quantum computers can only process information in ultracold environments (near-absolute zero Kelvin temperatures). The colder environments reduce the amount of “noise” at the quantum level, allowing for quantum computation with fewer errors.
LeBlanc and postdoctoral fellow Erhan Saglamyurek said their new quantum storage technique is best-suited for key applications requiring high-speed operation. It also has considerably fewer technical requirements compared to other quantum storage methods.
“The amount of power needed, for example, is significantly lower than current options, and these reduced requirements make it easier to implement in other labs. This discovery will allow for the crucial scaling up of quantum technologies, which has proven the biggest challenge to date in the emerging field," Saglamyurek explained.
Quantum Computing Keeps Growing
Over the past few years, we’ve seen major technology companies start to aggressively compete with each other in developing quantum computers that could soon achieve “quantum supremacy." This is the idea that a quantum computer can be faster at one or multiple tasks than any classical supercomputer. Other companies and governmental agencies are also interested in developing “quantum internet” or secure quantum communications.
All of these quantum systems will require information storage capabilities, just as classical computers need hard drives (or SSDs). The quantum storage technology the University of Alberta physicists developed may bring us one step closer to more practical quantum computer systems and networks.