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Efficient quantum memory for light

Abstract

Storing and retrieving a quantum state of light on demand, without corrupting the information it carries, is an important challenge in the field of quantum information processing. Classical measurement and reconstruction strategies for storing light must necessarily destroy quantum information as a consequence of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. There has been significant effort directed towards the development of devices—so-called quantum memories—capable of avoiding this penalty. So far, successful demonstrations1,2,3,4,5,6 of non-classical storage and on-demand recall have used atomic vapours and have been limited to low efficiencies, of less than 17 per cent, using weak quantum states with an average photon number of around one. Here we report a low-noise, highly efficient (up to 69 per cent) quantum memory for light that uses a solid-state medium. The device allows the storage and recall of light more faithfully than is possible using a classical memory, for weak coherent states at the single-photon level through to bright states of up to 500 photons. For input coherent states containing on average 30 photons or fewer, the performance exceeded the no-cloning limit. This guaranteed that more information about the inputs was retrieved from the memory than was left behind or destroyed, a feature that will provide security in communications applications.

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Figure 1: Experimental set-up.
Figure 2: Efficiency and spectral measurements.
Figure 3: Noise due to the memory and comparison with benchmarks.

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Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge S. Beavan, R. Ahlefeldt and J. Bartholomew for proofreading the manuscript. M.J.S. was supported by the Australian Research Council. J.J.L. was supported by a New Economy Research Fund grant from the New Zealand Foundation for Research Science and Technology

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Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

The initial project was conceived by M.J.S. and J.J.L. Various preliminary experiments were conducted by M.P.H. with assistance and guidance from M.J.S., J.J.L. and Y.L. The final experiment was designed, built and conducted by M.P.H. under the guidance of M.J.S. Data was analysed by M.P.H. with assistance in interpretation by M.J.S. and J.J.L. Theoretical modelling was done by M.P.H., building on work of J.J.L. Supplementary noise theory was prepared by M.P.H. with assistance from J.J.L. and comments from Y.L. The manuscript was prepared by M.P.H., M.J.S. and J.J.L.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Morgan P. Hedges.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Hedges, M., Longdell, J., Li, Y. et al. Efficient quantum memory for light. Nature 465, 1052–1056 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature09081

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