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A nano-scale test bed of quantum behaviours

Although it may seem simpler to study the quantum world through theory rather than experiment, computing power can be limiting. Scientists have created an experimental quantum simulator that will enable practical tests of predictions and hypotheses.

Industrial Technologies

Amazing advances in both experimental and theoretical methods have opened a window on to a brave new world, the quantum world. Here, the behaviours of matter defy the descriptions of classical mechanics and almost anything seems possible. However, when dealing with all these atomic and subatomic interactions, the computational load of the many-body problems can become problematic. Scientists have created an experimental set-up, a quantum simulator, to help form and test hypotheses when it comes to the complicated behaviours of quantum systems. With EU support of the project MOQUASIMS (Memory-enabled optical quantum simulators), the pioneering researchers have also constructed and implemented a quantum system to capture flying photons and hold them in stationary atomic excitations. In other words, they have created the foundations of the first-ever programmable quantum simulator capable of optical memory storage to be realised by integration of the two. The quantum memory set-up stores broadband light in room-temperature caesium vapour. Enabling room-temperature operation is a big victory for most technologies. Anything that can be done without fancy cooling or heating minimises complexity, maximising the likelihood of success. It also maximises the likelihood of subsequent uptake because it lowers investment costs and operating difficulties. Solutions to observed noise issues have now resulted in the ability to store and retrieve gigahertz broadband flying photons in a programmable way in a very low-noise environment. In particular, the system can reliably transport a single photon with a sub-nanosecond period or cycle time. Next, the team created an all-optical integrated network, a photonic chip of very high complexity that can simulate a multitude of interesting quantum physics phenomena. They have already used this simplified model to perform a variety of quantum experiments, including simulation of a quantum analogue of a photosynthetic system. The final step will be to integrate the two. This is expected to enable experiments not previously possible, as well as have practical use such as in the development of unconditional secure communication, super-fast computation or very precise measurement. MOQUASIMS has delivered a powerful new tool with the potential to change the way we interact with each other and the world around us.


Quantum, quantum simulator, photons, optical memory storage, quantum physics

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