Breakthroughs in quantum networking are just like buses. You wait for ages and then two come along at once.
Two research groups have independently demonstrated that it is possible to store information – encoded in entangled quantum states - in a crystal. This newly demonstrated quantum memory is the missing link in quantum computing and networking – vital for sending data over distances, and for performing complex calculations.
So far, the state of the art has been dependent on clouds of very cold atoms for storing information. As New Scientist puts it "This requires bulky equipment, and trained physicists". The breakthrough reported this week move things along more than a little, although with a data life expectancy of seven nanoseconds, it is not quite permanent storage.
Paper co-author Dr. Wolfgang Tittel of the University of Calgary’s Institute for Quantum Information Science says in the announcement that the discovery "constitutes an important milestone on the path toward quantum networks, and will hopefully enable building quantum networks in a few years."
A group in at the University of Geneva report a similar device, but used a different material as their storage crystal.
Although we’re still talking about operating temperatures of 3 Kelvin, or thereabouts (chilly), the set up uses almost entirely standard fabrication processes, which should make it easier to turn blue sky into real world applications.
Read more on the method and the madness over at New Scientist here.