Exploiting quantum mechanics for transmitting information is a tantalizing possibility because it promises secure, high speed communications.
Unfortunately, the fragility of methods for storing and sending quantum information has so far frustrated the enterprise. Now a team of physicists in Sweden and Poland have shown that photons that encode data have strength in numbers. Their experiment is reported in Physical Review Letters and Physical Review A and highlighted in the October 5 issue of Physics (physics.aps.org).
In classical communications, a bit can represent one of two states - either 0 or 1. But because photons are quantum mechanical objects, they can exist in multiple states at the same time. Photons can also be combined, in a process known as entanglement, to store a bit of quantum information (i.e. a qubit).
Unlike data stored in a computer or typically sent through conventional fiber optic cables, however, qubits are extremely fragile. A kink in a cable, the properties of the cable material, or even changes in temperature can corrupt a qubit and destroy the information it carries. But now a group lead by Magnus Rådmark at Stockholm University has shown that six entangled photons can encode information that stands up to some knocking around.
Rådmark and his team proved experimentally that their six photon qubits are robust and should be able to reliably carry information over long distances. The technology to encode useful information on the qubits and subsequently read it back is still lacking, but once those problems are solved, we will be well on our way to secure, reliable, and speedy quantum communication.
Also in Physics: Quasiparticles do the twist
Joel Moore writes a Viewpoint on a paper examining the experimental evidence for oddball particles that don't behave like either fermions or bosons, the two breeds of particles in quantum mechanics.
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. Here are some of the papers that will be featured in this week's issue of APS Physics.
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The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
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Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
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The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
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