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Making something out of nothing

March 06, 2008 12:32

U of C research may pave way for quantum computers

neil mackinnon/metro calgary

U of C prof Alexander Lvovsky stands in front of a board of equations that helped turn nothing into something.


They’ve gone and given even non-nihilists a reason to believe in nothing.


Deep in the bowels of a University of Calgary physics lab, surrounded by an intricate system of crystals and laser beams and small transparent tubes loaded with billions of rubidium atoms, a team of quantum physicists cracked open a discovery which may lead to nearly impenetrable encryption and quantum computers whose memory is harnessed from beams of light.


"What we’ve done is important because we proved it’s possible," said graduate student Mirko Lobino, who only came to U of C a year ago from Italy, adding their ultimate goal is to see their research result in a quantum computer that does "what Google does but in a more efficient way."


The ‘nothing’ the scientists have shed light upon is the ability to store information, classically transmitted by electric current and now by ‘squeezed vacuum’ light photons, and use rubidium atoms as a sort of hard-drive for the information carried, said Alexander Lvovsky, U of C physics and astronomy professor.


In the normal world, Lvovsky said, when a light is turned off, there’s nothing there and it’s perceived as black and quiet. But in the minutia of the quantum world, there’s still persistent noise which can distort the outcome of precise calculations.


"To avoid this, people have invented this concept of squeezed light or squeezed vacuum where the noise is reduced, even compared to the noise of no light, of vacuum," Lvovsky said. "So that is the kind of light that we’ve been able to store in rubidium."


While the research done by the Calgary team may indeed lead to an eventual quantum computer, it may also open the door for an extremely advanced encryption of information that can’t be broken based "on fundamental physical laws," Lvovsky said.

to be published

  • The findings will be published tomorrow in the physics journal Physical Review Letters.

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