Isn’t it strange that light itself has been stopped, that it was captured in a cold cloud in Australia in 2016? Further progress has been made and now in 2018 captured light has been used to make a sort of hard drive.
This new AMU experiment made use of a light trap by firing an infrared laser into an atomic vapor of rubidium-87, chilled to near-absolute zero. While the vapor absorbed some of the laser’s energy, a portion of the photons remained suspended amongst the cold atoms.
“It’s clear that the light is trapped, there are photons circulating around the atoms,” says lead researcher Jesse Everett. “The atoms absorbed some of the trapped light, but a substantial proportion of the photons were frozen inside the atomic cloud.”
More recently in Canada, trapped light has been used to store and retrieve information.
“We’ve developed a new way to store pulses of light — down to the single-photon level — in clouds of ultracold rubidium atoms, and to later retrieve them, on-demand, by shining a ‘control’ pulse of light,” said Lindsay LeBlanc, assistant professor of physics and Canada Research Chair in Ultracold Gases for Quantum Simulation. LeBlanc conducted this research with postdoctoral fellow Erhan Saglamyurek.
Quantum memories are an important component of quantum networks, serving much the same role as hard drives in today’s computers. And the interest in storing quantum data efficiently and effectively is only growing, with practical applications including a quantum fibre-optic internet and other methods of secure communication.
“This experiment involved taking short pulses of light, in which we could encode quantum information, storing the light in the atoms, and then retrieving the original pulse that carries the same information,” explained Saglamyurek.
If it turns out that there is really only one photon of light which is everywhere at the same time, all supposedly secure data we store as light might actually be very accessible to anyone, including all sorts of aliens across the universe. Information stored in any current quantum hard drive today might turn out to be tappable from any light source by ordinary people in the year 2525.
If you store your data securely on a quantum hard drive as frozen pulses of light, be sure to leave a message in there for all the aliens and futuristic humans.