Whether it comes to phoning a friend or to using the internet – our daily communication is based on sophisticated networks, with data being transferred at the speed of light between different nodes.
Figure: Single atoms form the nodes of an elementary quantum network in which quantum information is transmitted via the controlled exchange of single photons. Graphic by Andreas Neuzner, MPQ
It is a tremendous challenge to build corresponding networks for the exchange of quantum information. These quantum networks would differ profoundly from their classical counterparts: Besides giving insights into fundamental questions in physics, they could also have applications in secure communication and the simulation of complex many-body systems, or they could be used for distributed quantum computing. One prerequisite for functional quantum networks are stationary nodes that allow for the reversible exchange of quantum information.A major breakthrough in this field has now been achieved by scientists in the group of Professor Gerhard Rempe, director at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and head of the Quantum Dynamics division: The physicists have set up the first, elementary quantum network (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature11023, 12 April 2012). It consists of two coupled single-atom nodes that communicate quantum information via the coherent exchange of single photons. “This approach to quantum networking is particularly promising because it provides a clear perspective for scalability”, Professor Rempe points out.
Dr. Olivia Meyer-Streng | Max-Planck-Institut
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