Research paves way to better computers
U of C team's findings reported by leading journal
Annalise Klingbeil, Calgary HeraldPublished: Monday, March 10, 2008
Jerry Seinfeld had a hit television series about nothing. Now, quantum physics researchers at the University of Calgary have gone one better.
They've discovered the secret to capturing nothing.
A professor and four graduate students claim to have proven it's possible to store a "squeezed vacuum" in a puff of gas then retrieve it a split second later.
Graduate students Dmitry Korystov, left, Mirko Lobino, centre, and Prof. Alexander Lvovsky are members of a University of Calgary research team that has made findings it says will help the development of powerful computers and may even produce new techniques for making unbreakable codes.
Ted Jacob, Calgary Herald
And that, they say, is quite something, even if they have a hard time explaining its importance.
"I tell people I study light that is turned off and they get confused," said physics professor Alexander Lvovsky.
"Then I try to explain quantum mechanics and the uncertainty principle and they get really, really confused."
While there's no simple explanation of their discovery, the research team says its findings will help the development of more powerful computers and may even produce new techniques for making unbreakable codes to transmit sensitive information electronically.
Financial institutions and websites regularly use unbreakable codes to increase the security of data.
"This has a large amount of applications. In particular with precision measurements and quantum information science, which is a booming field," Lvovsky said.
Quantum physics is a branch of science that deals with discrete, indivisible units of energy.
Lvovsky started research on the project almost four years ago while working in Germany and is excited by the research team's findings, reported Friday in an online edition of the world's leading physics journal, Physical Review Letters.
"It's a big technical challenge," graduate student Dmitry Korystov said of the project.
Korystov said researchers around the world have tried similar projects and given up because working with the lights and electronics needed is incredibly difficult.
The research team spent countless hours, often late into the night, in a lab in the basement of a science building at the U of C.
The tiny room has black walls and tables littered with hundreds of intricate lights, lenses, lasers, tubes and wires.
"We have a great setup here," said Korystov.
Researcher Mirko Lobino said the discovery is a first step that could greatly affect quantum information science in the future.
"This will have a great impact," said Lobino. "It's an essential ingredient for the future."
The other graduate students involved in the research were Jurgen Appel and Eden Figueroa.