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Storing Photons In a Solid State Device

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the next-year-in-vending-machines dept.

Communications 68

bondisthebest writes in with a report from IEEE Spectrum: "Physicists in Switzerland, led by Nicolas Gisin of the University of Geneva, reported last week in Nature that they have made a solid-state device capable of storing photons for as long as 1 microsecond. The invention will aid in the development of light-based quantum-cryptography networks, which are theoretically impervious to hacking but are currently limited in range to a few dozen kilometers, primarily because of a lack of a suitable way to store the quantum state of photons."

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68 comments

Photons, Toddlers, and Tonguetwisters (4, Funny)

gbulmash (688770) | more than 4 years ago | (#26225897)

Wow, they've figured out how to store photons for about as long as my three-year-old obeys a command to stop fidgeting.

From TFA: What they did was "find a way to trap a photon in a collection of 10 million neodymium atoms embedded in an yttrium orthovanadate crystal". Now say that 10 times fast. :-)

Re:Photons, Toddlers, and Tonguetwisters (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26225931)

From TFA: What they did was "find a way to trap a photon in a collection of 10 million neodymium atoms embedded in an yttrium orthovanadate crystal". Now say that 10 times fast. :-)

find a way to trap a photon in a collection of 10 million neodymium atoms embedded in an yttrium orthovanadate crystal
find a way to trap a photon in a collection of 10 million neodymium atoms embedded in an yttrium orthovanadate crystal
find a way to trap a photon in a collection of 10 million neodymium atoms embedded in an yttrium orthovanadate crystal
find a way to trap a photon in a collection of 10 million neodymium atoms embedded in an yttrium orthovanadate crystal
find a way to trap a photon in a collection of 10 million neodymium atoms embedded in an yttrium orthovanadate crystal
find a way to trap a photon in a collection of 10 million neodymium atoms embedded in an yttrium orthovanadate crystal
find a way to trap a photon in a collection of 10 million neodymium atoms embedded in an yttrium orthovanadate crystal
find a way to trap a photon in a collection of 10 million neodymium atoms embedded in an yttrium orthovanadate crystal
find a way to trap a photon in a collection of 10 million neodymium atoms embedded in an yttrium orthovanadate crystal
find a way to trap a photon in a collection of 10 million neodymium atoms embedded in an yttrium orthovanadate crystal

So what do I win? :D

Re:Photons, Toddlers, and Tonguetwisters (1)

edsousa (1201831) | more than 4 years ago | (#26225997)

You win nothing. He said "10 times faster" not say it 10 times.

Re:Photons, Toddlers, and Tonguetwisters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26226087)

No, he didn't say "10 times faster", he did indeed say "10 times fast".

Re:Photons, Toddlers, and Tonguetwisters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26227291)

It was ten times, quite quite fast, but slashdot wouldn't let me hit "Submit" right away. I swear, though, it was about 4 seconds, tops!

You believe me, right? . . . right??

Re:Photons, Toddlers, and Tonguetwisters (1)

pope1 (40057) | more than 4 years ago | (#26225959)

Well, it's a start. As soon as they find a way to refresh the state at a regular frequency we'll be able to store (not just transmit) information with light. I hope it involves the use of tiny, tiny mirrors. =P

Re:Photons, Toddlers, and Tonguetwisters (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26226053)

1 microsecond of persistence...they'd need to be refreshed at a rate of 1GHz, which seems plausible.

After reading the article, it seems we're still a long long long way off from any kind of general-purpose photonic processor, but this seems like a very important advance.

Re:Photons, Toddlers, and Tonguetwisters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26226869)

1 MHz seems much more plausible. No, it sounds correct, you sound wrong by a factor of a thousand.

Re:Photons, Toddlers, and Tonguetwisters (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 5 years ago | (#26228859)

we'll be able to store (not just transmit) information with light

That basic idea is hardly new. [wikipedia.org] I'm not sure why you'd want to store information as light, but storage vs transmission is a blurry distinction these days in any case. A modern undersea cable "stores" megabits as light.

Re:Photons, Toddlers, and Tonguetwisters (5, Interesting)

Dutch Gun (899105) | more than 4 years ago | (#26226099)

I'll bet if you also chill your 3 year old to near absolute zero, you can get him to stop fidgeting for much longer than that.

Anyhow... *cough*, I had to follow an extra link to see what this might be good for. Apparently, one could theoretically build a quantum repeater, required for quantum networks, which supposedly would be impervious to hacking, because supposedly one can't read the quantum data without actually changing it's state to some degree.

But then there's this:

Quantum repeaters will be an essential component for long-range quantum information networks because photons degenerate--their quantum state changes--as they travel and need to be regenerated periodically in a way that preserves their original information. No one has been able to make a reliable quantum repeater yet. One of the prerequisites for such a device is a quantum memory that can store photons (and their quantum state) without destroying entanglement. Entanglement, a property important to quantum networks, allows two photons to be linked in such a way that, if someone measures one of the photons, the quantum state of the other becomes known as well. When a photon travels through optical fiber, entanglement degeneration occurs by approximately 300 kilometers.

So, if they could somehow figure out how to build a repeater, doesn't that by definition mean they could read the data, then recreate and retransmit it? Or is the act of repeating and retransmitting the quantum data different than "reading" the data? I don't quite understand how this is supposed to work (not too surprising, I'm not a physicist). Can anyone explain this supposed paradox to me?

Re:Photons, Toddlers, and Tonguetwisters (4, Interesting)

SmlFreshwaterBuffalo (608664) | more than 4 years ago | (#26226283)

I think "reading" is referring to actually retrieving something of value from the data. If retransmitting requires some sort of processing to occur, then the processor would have to read the data in order to retransmit it. But if retransmitting can be done at the quantum level (the goal of this as far as I can tell), then there is nothing actually reading the data, it's merely propagated through.

A (rather bad) analogy would be if someone were to speak to you in a language you do not know, and you repeated the words (data) verbatim. You retransmitted the words, but did not need to process them (i.e. read the data). That is, you didn't need to know what the words meant to repeat them.

Re:Photons, Toddlers, and Tonguetwisters (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26226471)

Cock full my need, bang her mum.

Re:Photons, Toddlers, and Tonguetwisters (1)

Dutch Gun (899105) | more than 5 years ago | (#26227903)

I think "reading" is referring to actually retrieving something of value from the data. If retransmitting requires some sort of processing to occur, then the processor would have to read the data in order to retransmit it. But if retransmitting can be done at the quantum level (the goal of this as far as I can tell), then there is nothing actually reading the data, it's merely propagated through.

A (rather bad) analogy would be if someone were to speak to you in a language you do not know, and you repeated the words (data) verbatim. You retransmitted the words, but did not need to process them (i.e. read the data). That is, you didn't need to know what the words meant to repeat them.

Thanks for the clarification. That makes a bit more sense.

Re:Photons, Toddlers, and Tonguetwisters (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 5 years ago | (#26230303)

So if im not a vet, and i cant tell if the cat is asleep or dead, it is in a state of both sleep and dead until i take it to the vet.

Re:Photons, Toddlers, and Tonguetwisters (1)

thelamecamel (561865) | more than 5 years ago | (#26227045)

There usually are a few touted applications of "slow light".

As a pulse/beam of light slows down, it intensifies (just like chairs on a chairlift bunch up at the slow top and bottom base stations). As the intensity of the light goes up, so do the nonlinear effects of the medium, so if you want to exploit nonlinearity, slow light is a good thing. However, this particular implementation (requiring neodymium atoms as the medium) won't be useful for this application because I don't think many people are interested in the nonlinearities of that medium

The other big application of "slow light" is relevant here - it is an optical buffer, a delay line that you can send light into. If you want to build an optical router (a challenging goal), then you need to be able to delay individual packets to avoid packet collisions. Now that slow light is supposedly sorted, you just need to get to work on the optical logic required for routing, which according to some big names, can physically never beat electronics as long as TCP/IP is still around.

Re:Photons, Toddlers, and Tonguetwisters (1)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 5 years ago | (#26227489)

So will this tech be able to build a stronger chess computer? Will I ever be able to win?

Re:Photons, Toddlers, and Tonguetwisters (2, Interesting)

Dutch Gun (899105) | more than 5 years ago | (#26227941)

So will this tech be able to build a stronger chess computer? Will I ever be able to win?

Forget chess. We've already beaten grandmasters with computers. The next AI challenge is programming a decent Go player. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Photons, Toddlers, and Tonguetwisters (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#26228399)

So will this tech be able to build a stronger chess computer? Will I ever be able to win?

Forget chess. We've already beaten grandmasters with computers. The next AI challenge is programming a decent Go player. [wikipedia.org]

And then after that will be making computers behave like they do in movies.

Re:Photons, Toddlers, and Tonguetwisters (1)

SinGunner (911891) | more than 4 years ago | (#26226115)

Old joke-answer:

that
that
that
that
that
that
that
that
that
that

Re:Photons, Toddlers, and Tonguetwisters (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 4 years ago | (#26226331)

He said fast

thatthatthatthatthatthatthatthatthatthat

Re:Photons, Toddlers, and Tonguetwisters (1)

mortonda (5175) | more than 4 years ago | (#26226361)

Depends on the order of operations, parens would make it more clear:

Say (that 10 times) fast

that10times

Re:Photons, Toddlers, and Tonguetwisters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26226753)

that 10 times fast

Do I win anything?

Re:Photons, Toddlers, and Tonguetwisters (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 4 years ago | (#26226879)

When you store those "photons" in your solid state device, you KNOW when your child first becomes the twinkle in your eye...

Re:Photons, Toddlers, and Tonguetwisters (1)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 5 years ago | (#26227479)

Is this sort of like finding a way to make memory expensive again? Yeh, I know P.C. Magazine will soon explain why every home PC needs this technology.

Schrödinger called... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26226071)

...he said your server was either hacked or it wasn't.

Re:Schrödinger called... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26226255)

1. Do not observe servers.
2. Quantum state of servers is both "working" and "failed"
3. "working" & "failed" -> "working"
4. ???
5. Profit

I need to work out how to stop users from observing the servers by trying to connect to them; but that can be safely ignored as part of step 4.

Re:Schrödinger called... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26230071)

Slashdot is full of Modrons - replying with exact the same kind of joke when encountering a quantum story.

I'm Gonna Be Rich! (5, Funny)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 4 years ago | (#26226075)

I just need to be the first to patent two mirrors facing each other...

Re:I'm Gonna Be Rich! (3, Insightful)

Kabuthunk (972557) | more than 4 years ago | (#26226199)

Course, then you're left with the problem of getting the photon to STAY between the mirrors, instead of just go back and forth away from the source until it hits the bottom of the mirror.

You'd have to find a way to release the photon exactly perpendicular to the mirror, but not have the emitter get in the way when it bounces back.

Re:I'm Gonna Be Rich! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26226243)

It's easy. Just use nano fractal mirrors.

Re:I'm Gonna Be Rich! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26226377)

Oh yeah, and reverse the phase and amplify by one to the fourth.

Re:I'm Gonna Be Rich! (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#26228405)

Oh yeah, and reverse the phase and amplify by one to the fourth.

And then use a verteron pulse to regenerate the waveform at fixed intervals.

Re:I'm Gonna Be Rich! (1)

Veggiesama (1203068) | more than 5 years ago | (#26227865)

I used to be obsessed with this idea when I was a kid (I was a very strange kid). Except not photons, but a beam of light. How can I trap it between mirrors?

My final idea was to shine a beam of light in a box or sphere of mirrors, figure out a trajectory to keep the light from shining back out my hole for like a second, then shut the lid really quick (which has a mirror to block the escaping light).

Why couldn't someone have just explained to me the simpler way of solving this problem?

I.e., go outside and do something productive.

Re:I'm Gonna Be Rich! (1)

Justin Hopewell (1260242) | more than 5 years ago | (#26234909)

I always wanted to do something like this, also, but, you know, since I can't move my hands at the speed of light (to close the box) it was just a curiousity.

Re:I'm Gonna Be Rich! (1)

Hucko (998827) | more than 5 years ago | (#26238715)

I did something similar (made a cube of mirrors) but couldnt figure how to observe the light without letting it out.

Re:I'm Gonna Be Rich! (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 4 years ago | (#26226453)

You're behind the curve when it comes to patent law. Some guy patented mirrors last week. Someone tried to present evidence of prior art, but the judge just saw himself.

Re:I'm Gonna Be Rich! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26226461)

So? What's two mirrors facing each other going to do? You forget, inventive genius, that if photons don't reach my eye, I can't see. So, if you get your photons going back and forth between two mirrors, what is the significance? If it's going back and forth between the mirrors, it's never hitting my eye, so anything you might have had planned means nothing.

I don't see how this would make you rich.

Re:I'm Gonna Be Rich! (1)

gbulmash (688770) | more than 5 years ago | (#26227387)

I just need to be the first to patent two mirrors facing each other...

Just don't get a witch between them (read Terry Pratchett's "Witches Abroad" if you don't understand).

impervious shivurvious (1)

moniker127 (1290002) | more than 4 years ago | (#26226203)

impervious to hacking. Ba ha ha. Why do they bother with these descriptions? They know they will just be emberassing themselves later.

Re:impervious shivurvious (3, Interesting)

mark-t (151149) | more than 4 years ago | (#26226463)

Sure, if somebody finds a way to hack the physical universe in which we live and change its laws of operation, I suppose its possible.

Quantum cryptography is secure by virtue of actual physical laws. Unless we are all living in the Matrix or some weird-ass crap like that, I'd say it's a pretty safe bet that it's secure. Even the mere _attempt_ to hack it would be immediately obvious to both the sender and the receiver.

Re:impervious shivurvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26226613)

My cat once hacked the universe. You'd be amazed how much hair is in there.

Re:impervious shivurvious (1)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 4 years ago | (#26226927)

Quantum cryptography is secure by virtue of actual physical laws. Unless we are all living in the Matrix or some weird-ass crap like that, I'd say it's a pretty safe bet that it's secure.

Even if we were in the Matrix, it would still be secure. Yes, "the machine" could change physical laws (conceivably), but the machine already runs your life. So it doesn't matter if it sees your dumb bank code. Replace "the machine" with "God" if you are so inclined. Unless the machine/God-figure decides to reveal your secrets, nobody will see them.

Information security is about access to information. So is epistemology. Who knew!

Re:impervious shivurvious (1)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 5 years ago | (#26227507)

Well, God did create all universes as a binary program but then Microsoft patented all possible combinations of binary code. That leaves us in doubt as to whom is actually running the bits.

Re:impervious shivurvious (1)

Veggiesama (1203068) | more than 5 years ago | (#26227879)

That leaves us in doubt as to whom is actually running the bits.

Well I don't know about the bits, but I sure know about the bytes. The bites. The strings. You know, string theory. That is, the spaghetti strings. That you bite. They also fly, kind of like a flying monster.

It sounded funnier in my head.

Re:impervious shivurvious (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 5 years ago | (#26227939)

that's assuming the model we call quantum mechanics is actually accurate. maybe it's merely useful for now.

ooh yeah! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26226209)

I just took a shit. Literally. I'm at the library, using the computers. As I go to take a piss, a girl stepped out of the unisex bathroom. She was hot. Eat-the-peanuts-out-of-her-shit hot. Stepping into the bathroom, I inhaled the scent of her perfume and faint traces of pussy. Lifting the lid on the toilet, I discovered a fat turd floating in the bowl. Suffice to say, I ate more than just the peanuts out of her shit!

Just get a small black hole (2, Insightful)

Baruch Atta (1327765) | more than 4 years ago | (#26226229)

Easy. Just get a small black hole. Shoot the photons around the gravity well. They'll last almost forever.

Now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26226289)

Now if we could just do something useful with a photon in a black hole...

Re:Now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26226447)

That's what she said. Then there was a big bang.

Re:Just get a small black hole (2, Funny)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#26226507)

Easy. Just get a small black hole. Shoot the photons around the gravity well. They'll last almost forever.

No problem, we should have the LHC back online this year. :)

Re:Just get a small black hole (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26228229)

Within the next six days?

FAILZORS./.. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26226513)

are 7he important

Neutral my ass! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26226521)

They try to develope damn photon-torpedos!

Slow glass? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26227725)

Anyone remember the 'slow glass' in stories by Robert Shaw.

What's the big deal? (1)

WhiteHorse-The Origi (1147665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26229407)

I can store a photon for several seconds by sending it through a medium in which the speed of light is different from the speed in the original medium. Maybe I should patent all known mediums that light can travel through as potential storage devices for photons.

Re:What's the big deal? (1)

Whiteox (919863) | more than 5 years ago | (#26232753)

I can't think of why that won't work, but I'm not a physicist.
You can extend that model a bit. If you had a series of fast-slow-fast-slow-fast media then why is the light still traveling fast at the end of the chain? What happens to entropy? A loss of velocity must mean a generation of energy somehow. The only thing I can think of is that you won't be getting as many photons out as was going in.

Can a physicist explain this?
If Einstein's Theory is correct, that if you accelerate mass to the speed of light, it turns into energy, but if you slow light down it doesn't turn into mass?

Re:What's the big deal? (1)

WhiteHorse-The Origi (1147665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26234049)

Actually I can explain: E=h*c/lambda is the energy equation for a photon. If c changes, which is the case here, the wavelength(lambda) would shift accordingly and there would be no loss of energy. There might be some energy lost at the interface between 2 mediums, but not usually if it's set up correctly.
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