Tiny optical cavity could make Quantum Internet possible

Engineers at Caltech have shown that atoms in optical cavity could be foundational to the creation of a Quantum Internet.

The researchers constructed a nanophotonic cavity, a beam that is about 10 microns in length with periodic nano-patterning, sculpted from a piece of crystal. They then identified a rare-earth ytterbium ion in the center of the beam. The optical cavity allows them to bounce light back and forth down the beam multiple times until it is finally absorbed by the ion.

The team showed that the cavity modifies the environment of the ion such that whenever it emits a photon, more than 99 percent of the time that photon remains in the cavity, where scientists can then efficiently collect and detect that photon to measure the state of the ion. This results in an increase in the rate at which the ion can emit photons, improving the overall effectiveness of the system.

In addition, the ytterbium ions are able to store information in their spin for 30 milliseconds. In this time, light could transmit information to travel across the continental United States, for example.

The work was published by the journal Nature. (Phys.org)

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