NIST scientists make quantum-computing device communication breakthrough

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The research and development of quantum computers, although still in its infancy, took a step forward this summer, according to research highlighted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in an Oct. 25, Tech Beat post. Many scientists believe quantum computers will one day help break encryption and other codes that elude current computing technology.

Just as today's PCs depend on hardware devices for computation, quantum computing depends on quantum-mechanical attributes to represent the components of computers.

Physicists have been busy designing extremely tiny "devices"--many constructed from photons rather than the circuits and chips of today's larger-scale computers--to transport quantum computer data and carry out quantum computational operations. But until now these minute vehicles for data transmission had been unable to interact with one another.

NIST says a research team, composed of NIST/University of Maryland Joint Quantum Institute (JQI) and Georgetown University physicists, can now show how these quantum devices might communicate effectively, says NIST. The team published its findings in a July 29 issue of Physical Review Letters.

Coordination of these small devices has been challenging. Scientists have now demonstrated that it's possible to take photons from two disparate sources and make them "coalesce," or become "indistinguishable without losing their essential quantum properties."

Coalescence was achieved by altering the photons' spectral shapes, says the report, through the use of a quantum dot, filters and other photon interference techniques. (See image for a graphic representation of coalescence.)

As a result, it's likely quantum devices will be able to communicate in a single quantum information network and form a hybrid quantum computer assembled of tiny devices, even when they are composed of photons of different character.

For more:
- see the NIST Tech Beat post

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