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Storage and retrieval of single photons transmitted between remote quantum memories


An elementary quantum network operation involves storing a qubit state in an atomic quantum memory node, and then retrieving and transporting the information through a single photon excitation to a remote quantum memory node for further storage or analysis. Implementations of quantum network operations are thus conditioned on the ability to realize matter-to-light and/or light-to-matter quantum state mappings. Here we report the generation, transmission, storage and retrieval of single quanta using two remote atomic ensembles. A single photon is generated from a cold atomic ensemble at one site 1, and is directed to another site through 100 metres of optical fibre. The photon is then converted into a single collective atomic excitation using a dark-state polariton approach2. After a programmable storage time, the atomic excitation is converted back into a single photon. This is demonstrated experimentally, for a storage time of 0.5 microseconds, by measurement of an anti-correlation parameter. Storage times exceeding ten microseconds are observed by intensity cross-correlation measurements. This storage period is two orders of magnitude longer than the time required to achieve conversion between photonic and atomic quanta. The controlled transfer of single quanta between remote quantum memories constitutes an important step towards distributed quantum networks.

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Figure 1: A schematic diagram of our experimental set-up, demonstrating generation, transmission, storage and retrieval of single photon excitations of the electromagnetic field.
Figure 2: Measured transmission spectra of a coherent probe field as a function of probe detuning in the presence of, and absence of, EIT.
Figure 3: Experimental and theoretical pulse shapes as a function of time, showing EIT, storage and retrieval.
Figure 4: Measured intensity cross-correlation function gsi and anticorrelation function α as a function of the idler photoelectric detection probability p1.
Figure 5: Normalized signal-idler intensity correlation function g si as a function of the storage time T s at Site B.


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This work was supported by NASA, Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program, National Science Foundation, Research Corporation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and Cullen-Peck Chair. We thank M. S. Chapman for discussions and E. T. Neumann for experimental assistance.

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Correspondence to A. Kuzmich.

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Supplementary Notes

This file contains additional information on the theory of electromagnetically induced transparency (EIT) for atoms with Zeeman degeneracy, which is essential for adequate modelling of the system. We also include details of the analysis of the photoelectron counting statistics of the light fields detected in our experiment, in support of generation, storage, and retrieval of single photon states of the electromagnetic field. (PDF 167 kb)

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Chanelière, T., Matsukevich, D., Jenkins, S. et al. Storage and retrieval of single photons transmitted between remote quantum memories. Nature 438, 833–836 (2005).

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