There is a fair (read: large) amount of engineering work still to be done before this comes to a RealWorldTM near you, but scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have taken three big strides towards working quantum networks with discoveries that will enable quantum bits to be transmitted and detected over normal telecoms networks.
The problem is that the ideal wavelength for quantum storage is much shorter than that for efficient information transmission. By sending the quantum signal through a specially shaped cloud of rubidium atoms the team can convert infrared photons that hold quantum data into much longer wavelength creatures that will move more contentedly through conventional optical networks.
They’ve also developed a quantum repeater that is within a gnat’s hair (well, a factor of ten) of being useable for avoiding signal loss along the way, and they’ve found a way of converting the signals back to infra-red wavelengths so that information can be detected by a quantum information system at the other end.
"This is [a] significant step toward improving quantum information systems based on neutral atoms," Associate Professor Alex Kuzmich says in the press release. "For quantum repeaters, most of the basic steps have now been made, but achieving the final benchmarks required for an operating system will require intensive optical engineering efforts."