Room for Just One Photon

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Science  18 May 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6083, pp. 812-813
DOI: 10.1126/science.1222815

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Designing strong, fast, controllable, and switchable interactions between individual quantum systems is a major goal in quantum information processing. This goal, however, presents a difficult challenge because most simple quantum objects, such as photons, generally do not interact with each other. On page 887 of this issue, Dudin and Kuzmich (1) demonstrate an interaction with exotic excitations of atomic gases, so-called Rydberg dark-state polaritons (2, 3), that can be turned on and off on a fast time scale and that is strong enough that the presence of just a single photon in the ensemble can prevent other photons to come nearby. Their technique provides a platform to manipulate and control the interactions between single photons.