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A solid case of entanglement

11.01.2010
Quantum entanglement achieved in solid-state circuitry

For the first time, physicists have convincingly demonstrated that physically separated particles in solid-state devices can be quantum-mechanically entangled. The achievement is analogous to the quantum entanglement of light, except that it involves particles in circuitry instead of photons in optical systems.

Both optical and solid-state entanglement offer potential routes to quantum computing and secure communications, but solid-state versions may ultimately be easier to incorporate into electronic devices. The experiment is reported in an upcoming issue of Physical Review Letters and highlighted with a Viewpoint in the January 11 issue of Physics (http://physics.aps.org.)

In optical entanglement experiments, a pair of entangled photons may be separated via a beam splitter. Despite their physical separation, the entangled photons continue to act as a single quantum object. A team of physicists from France, Germany and Spain has now performed a solid-state entanglement experiment that uses electrons in a superconductor in place of photons in an optical system.

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As conventional superconducting materials are cooled, the electrons they conduct entangle to form what are known as Cooper pairs. In the new experiment, Cooper pairs flow through a superconducting bridge until they reach a carbon nanotube that acts as the electronic equivalent of a beam splitter. Occasionally, the electrons part ways and are directed to separate quantum dots -- but remain entangled. Although the quantum dots are only a micron or so apart, the distance is large enough to demonstrate entanglement comparable to that seen in optical systems.

In addition to the possibility of using entangled electrons in solid-state devices for computing and secure communications, the breakthrough opens a whole new vista on the study of quantum mechanically entangled systems in solid materials.

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About APS Physics: APS Physics (http://physics.aps.org) publishes expert written commentaries and highlights of papers appearing in the journals of the American Physical Society.

James Riordon | EurekAlert!
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