Physics

Solid-State Optical Storage

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Science  02 Aug 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6145, pp. 437
DOI: 10.1126/science.341.6145.437-c

Photons are ideal carriers of information. They are fast and coherent, and because they don't interact much with each other they can have very long lifetimes. However, stopping, processing, and manipulating the photons requires them to be stored in a memory, where doing so can damage their fragile quantum properties, which leads to a loss of coherence. Although photons have been coherently stored in and retrieved from ensembles of atom gases, both warm and cold atom clouds, for practical applications a solid-state memory would be desired. Heinze et al. have developed a method to enhance the storage time of photons in a rare-earth–ion—doped crystal. They use a series of laser pulses to initialize the crystal for photon storage and then load it with their “information photons.” By iteratively optimizing the experimental parameters, they show that they can store light pulses and even entire images in the crystal and then retrieve them up to a minute later with their coherent properties intact. The results present an important step toward building a viable quantum network.

Phys. Rev. Lett. 111, 033601(2013).

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