New switching device to help build an ultrafast quantum Internet

March 11th, 2011 - 12:41 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Mar 11 (ANI): A device created by researchers at Northwestern University is a practical step toward creating a network that takes advantage of the mysterious and powerful world of quantum mechanics.

Thanks to the new switching device, the researchers can route quantum bits, or entangled particles of light, at very high speeds along a shared network of fiber-optic cable without losing the entanglement information embedded in the quantum bits.

It could be used to achieve two main goals of the IT world - a quantum Internet, where encrypted information would be completely secure, and networking superfast quantum computers.

The device would enable a common transport mechanism, such as the ubiquitous fiber-optic infrastructure, to be shared among many users of quantum information.

“My goal is to make quantum communication devices very practical,” said Prem Kumar, ATnT Professor of Information Technology in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and senior author of the paper.

“We work in fiber optics so that as quantum communication matures it can easily be integrated into the existing telecommunication infrastructure.”

Unlike classical communications that exist in either a “0″ or “1″ state, a qubit can be both one and zero simultaneously as well as being one or zero.

Additionally, two or more qubits at different locations can be entangled — a mysterious connection that is not possible with ordinary bits.

“Entangled” means that some physical characteristic (such as polarization as used in 3-D TV) of each pair of photons emitted by this device are inextricably linked. If one photon assumes one state, its mate assumes a corresponding state; this holds even if the two photons are hundreds of kilometers apart.

The qubit Kumar works with is the photon, a particle of light. A photonic quantum network will require switches that don’t disturb the physical characteristics (superposition and entanglement properties) of the photons being transmitted, Kumar says. He and his team built an all-optical, fiber-based switch that does just that while operating at very high speeds.

“Quantum communication can achieve things that are not possible with classical communication,” said Kumar.

“This switch opens new doors for many applications, including distributed quantum processing where nodes of small-scale quantum processors are connected via quantum communication links.”

The study appears in the journal Physical Review Letters. (ANI)

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