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'plucking' Light Particles From Laser Beams Could Advance Quantum Computing

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Scientists say capturing a single photon from a pulse of light could help in the development of future quantum communications systems.

Researchers have developed a method of capturing an individual particle of light from a laser pulse.

Credit: Weizmann Institute of Science

Researchers at Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science have devised a method of reliably "plucking" an individual particle of light out of a laser pulse.

The ability to generate single photons is very important for the future of quantum computing and quantum cryptography, but current methods are very unreliable. The current method for generating single photons sometimes generates multiple photons, a phenomenon that would undermine quantum computing or quantum encryption. However, the Weizmann researchers have used a method know as single-photon Raman interaction (SPRINT), which involves using supercooled atoms and optical technology to consistently pluck just one photon out of a beam of light.

The researchers had previously used the method to build an all-optical router for quantum communication systems. The method could be used to build reliable quantum computing or encryption systems, or to "purify" other methods of extra photons.

Weizmann researcher Barak Dayan says their method has two advantages: "One: In principle, it always happens--it's deterministic. Two: You're not losing the photon, just diverting it, and you can use it for other processes."

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