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High-fidelity photon-to-atom quantum state transfer could form backbone of quantum networks

Posted December 1, 2014

In a quantum network, information is stored, processed, and transmitted from one device to another in the form of quantum states. The quantum nature of the network gives it certain advantages over classical networks, such as greater security.

quantum network 1
 Experimental setup of the high-fidelity photon-to-atom quantum state transfer. The ion is trapped between the two gray HALOs (high-numerical aperture laser objective). The 729-nm laser (pink beam) is used to prepare the ion in a superposition state. The ion absorbs photons from the 854-nm laser (red beam), and the photon polarizations are mapped onto the ion, transferring the quantum state from photon to ion. Upon absorption of the photon, the ion releases a 393-nm photon, which travels along a fiber and is detected by a photomultiplier tube, heralding a successful transfer. Credit: Kurz, et al. ©2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited

One promising method for implementing a quantum network involves using both atoms and photons for their unique advantages. While atoms are useful as nodes (in the form of quantum memories and processors) due to their long storage times, photons are useful as links (on optical fibers) because they’re better at carrying quantum information over large distances.

However, using both atoms and photons requires that quantum states be converted between single atoms and single photons. This in turn requires a high degree of control over the emission and absorption processes in which single atoms act as senders and receivers of single photons. Because it’s difficult to achieve complete overlap between the atomic and photonic modes, photon-to-atom state transfer usually suffers from low fidelities of below 10%. This means that more than 90% of the time the state transfer is unsuccessful.

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