Researchers tout data buffering, quantum computing style

Researchers today are touting what they call a quantum buffer, technology that could be used to control the data flow inside a quantum computer.

The research envelopes work with the sometimes other-worldly science known as quantum entanglement. Quantum entanglement is developing component of quantum physics that looks at the behavior between atoms and  photons that could ultimately play a key role in developing security, unbelievably fast networks and even teleportation. 

In the new research, scientists from the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI) of the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland each quantum image is carried by a light beam and consists of up to 100 pixels. A pixel in one quantum image displays random and unpredictable changes say, in intensity, yet the corresponding pixel in the other image exhibits identical intensity fluctuations at the same time, and these fluctuations are independent from fluctuations in other pixels, researchers stated.

By using a gas cell to slow down one of the light beams to 500 times slower than the speed of light, the group has demonstrated that they could delay the arrival time of one of the entangled images at a detector by up to 27 nanoseconds. The correlations between the two entangled images still occur-but they are out of sync. A flicker in the first image would have a corresponding flicker in the slowed-down image up to 27 nanoseconds later.

In their experiment, the researchers sent one of the entangled light beams through a second cell of rubidium gas where a similar four-wave mixing process is used to slow down the beam. The beam is slowed down as a result of the light being absorbed and re-emitted repeatedly in the gas. The amount of delay caused by the gas cell can be controlled by changing the temperature of the cell (by modifying the density of the gas atoms) and also by changing the intensity of the pump beam for the second cell, researchers stated.

The demonstration showed that this type of quantum buffer could be particularly useful for quantum computers, both in its information capacity and its potential to deliver data at precisely defined times, researchers said.

"If you want to set up some sort of communications system or a quantum information-processing system, you need to control the arrival time of one data stream relative to other data streams coming in," says JQI's Alberto Marino, lead author of the paper detailing the technique. "We can accomplish the delay in a compact setup, and we can rapidly change the delay if we want, something that would not be possible with usual laboratory apparatus such as beamsplitters and mirrors," he said in a release.

In the past 12 months there has been a ton of activity, mostly from the government realm in quantum computing technology.   For example, in September, the US Army Research Office and the National Security Agency (NSA) said they were looking for some answers to their quantum physics questions.

Specifically the agencies are soliciting proposals to achieve three broad goals:

-develop new quantum computing algorithms for hard computational problems;

-characterize the efficiency of candidate quantum algorithms;

-develop insights into the power of quantum computation and consider issues of quantum complexity and computability.

Also in September, researchers at (NIST) demonstrated a technique that could make quantum cryptography significantly cheaper to implement, moving it nearer to possible commercial acceptance.  The technique is aimed at cutting the cost of equipment needed for quantum key distribution (QKD), designed to distribute cryptographic keys using a secure system based on the principles of quantum mechanics.

And of course the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is looking for  research in the quantum entanglement arena. DARPA's program, called Quantum Entanglement Science and Technology (QuEST) has the lofty goal of developing revolutionary advances in the fundamental understanding of quantum information science, DARPA said.

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