Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Into the quantum internet at the speed of light

Not only do optical fibers transmit information every day around the world at the speed of light, but they can also be harnessed for the transport of quantum information.
In the current issue of Nature Photonics, a research team of Innsbruck physicists led by Rainer Blatt and Tracy Northup report how they have directly transferred the quantum information stored in an atom onto a particle of light. Such information could then be sent over optical fiber to a distant atom.

Thanks to the strange laws of quantum mechanics, quantum computers would be able to carry out certain computational tasks much faster than conventional computers. Among the most promising technologies for the construction of a quantum computer are systems of single atoms, confined in so-called ion traps and manipulated with lasers. In the laboratory, these systems have already been used to test key building blocks of a future quantum computer. “Currently, we can carry out successful quantum computations with atoms,” explain Andreas Stute and Bernardo Casabone, both PhD students at the University of Innsbruck’s Institute for Experimental Physics. “But we are still missing viable interfaces with which quantum information can be transferred over optical channels from one computer to another.”
What makes the construction of these interfaces especially challenging is that the laws of quantum mechanics don’t allow quantum information to be simply copied. Instead, a future quantum internet – that is, a network of quantum computers linked by optical channels – would have to transfer quantum information onto individual particles of light, known as photons. These photons would then be transported over an optical-fiber link to a distant computing site. Now, for the first time, quantum information has been directly transferred from an atom in an ion trap onto a single photon. The work is reported in the current issue of Nature Photonics by a research team led by Tracy Northup and Rainer Blatt.

Quantum networkers

The University of Innsbruck physicists first trap a single calcium ion in an ion trap and position it between two highly reflective mirrors. “We use a laser to write the desired quantum information onto the electronic states of the atom,” explains Stute. “The atom is then excited with a second laser, and as a result, it emits a photon. At this moment, we write the atom’s quantum information onto the polarization state of the photon, thus mapping it onto the light particle.” The photon is stored between the mirrors until it eventually flies out through one mirror, which is less reflective than the other. “The two mirrors steer the photon in a specific direction, effectively guiding it into an optical fiber,” says Casabone. The quantum information stored in the photon could thus be conveyed over the optical fiber to a distant quantum computer, where the same technique could be applied in reverse to write it back onto an atom.

Support for this research was provided by the Austrian Science Funds and by the European Union.

Publication: Quantum-state transfer from an ion to a photon. A. Stute, B. Casabone, B. Brandstätter, K. Friebe, T. E. Northup, R. Blatt. Nature Photonics 2013 DOI: 10.1038/NPHOTON.2012.358 (


Andreas Stute
Institute for Experimental Physics
University of Innsbruck, Austria
Tel.: +43 512 507-52465

Christian Flatz
Public Relations Office
University of Innsbruck
Tel.: +43 512 507-32022
Mobil: +43 676 872532022

Dr. Christian Flatz | Universität Innsbruck
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie

nachricht Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>