Correcting quantum data streams could lead to a secure global network
- In new research, a device helps correct lost data at the quantum level.
- The relay system picks up stray photons and pushes them back into the stream.
- As the data moves faster, the process amplifies the small amount of lost photons.
One of the biggest questions of our modern times is how best to transmit huge amounts of data over increasingly large spaces. Now quantum theorists suggest that “teleportation” – something previously dreamed of star trek and Willy Wonka – could be the quantum secret to unlocking truly lossless data transmission.
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In new research, scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and quantum working groups at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, suggest that quantum data transfer could blow our minds. Their researchwhich experiments with the capture and recovery of parasitic photons during data transfers, appears in Nature Communication.
We’ll set the scene by imagining different data scenarios. Think of the simple telegraph, where a wire carries a signal that is transmitted one zap or quiet space at a time. These zaps move back and forth as electrons are exchanged at the molecular level. At its simplest level, that is what electricity is.
Now imagine a computer network where files are transmitted back and forth to and from a server or between different workstations. Passing through these files seems to be super-fast, but in reality, different pieces are passed through one by one. The algorithms that handle it even have “collision detection” to ensure that less data is lost when parts collide in cables.
Both of these scenarios involve data transmission. They seem very different in complexity, but both also represent a simple paradigm: continuous flow. In these situations, data flows one way or the other like water from a pitcher. Sometimes it alternates, but the flow is always continuous through the pipes.
Here is the other aspect of the continuous or linear flow of information: there is loss. Even in computer networks, data packets To do sometimes collide or fall, and get lost. And in a massive local fiber optic network, for example, light bounces around inside the fiber, with some inevitable loss due to the nature of the light itself. “Loss-induced noise from, for example, scattering and diffraction, is unavoidable in long-distance information transfer”, researchers write.
Even with cutting-edge data transfer, as in the massive fiber optic trunks that connect cities or entire countries, bouncing particles of light are what power all the technology. These technologies release photons, so finding ways to reduce the losses is a huge industry in itself. The more data we send, the more small losses add up to the actual amounts of lost data.
To study the loss, the scientists first set up an experiment in which an unimportant photon bounced into a position where it would be intentionally lost in the interference noise. To control the loss, they first applied a device called a noiseless linear amplifier. When operating, this device appears to “catch” the stray photon, bring it back to the quantum state, and zoom it into the healthy part of the data.
“A working long-distance quantum communication channel needs a mechanism to reduce this loss of information, which is exactly what we did in our experiment,” said researcher Sergei Slussarenko. said in a press release. “Our work implements a so-called quantum relay, a key ingredient in this long-distance communication network.”
Next, the researchers want to test this method for long-distance quantum cryptography. After that, they can start dreaming of a truly secure global quantum network.
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