A quantum memory, for storing and retrieving flying photonic quantum states, is a key interface for realizing long-distance quantum communication and large-scale quantum computation. While many experimental schemes demonstrating high storage and retrieval efficiency have been performed with weak coherent light pulses, all quantum memories for true single photons achieved so far have efficiencies far below 50%, a threshold value for practical applications. Here, we report the demonstration of a quantum memory for single-photon polarization qubits with an efficiency of >85% and a fidelity of >99%, based on balanced two-channel electromagnetically induced transparency in laser-cooled rubidium atoms. For the single-channel quantum memory, the optimized efficiency for storing and retrieving single-photon temporal waveforms can be as high as 90.6%. This result pushes the photonic quantum memory closer to practical applications in quantum information processing.

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This work was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (grant numbers 2016YFA0301803 and 2016YFA0302800), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant numbers 11474107, 61378012, 91636218, 11822403, 11804104, 11804105 and U1801661), and the Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong Province (grant numbers 2015TQ01X715, 2014A030306012 and 2018A0303130066). S.D. acknowledges the support from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council (project numbers 16304817 and C6005-17G) and the William Mong Institute of Nano Science and Technology (project number WMINST19SC05).

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Author notes

  1. These authors contributed equally: Yunfei Wang, Jianfeng Li, Shanchao Zhang.


  1. Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Quantum Engineering and Quantum Materials, School of Physics and Telecommunication Engineering, South China Normal University, Guangzhou, China

    • Yunfei Wang
    • , Jianfeng Li
    • , Shanchao Zhang
    • , Keyu Su
    • , Yiru Zhou
    • , Kaiyu Liao
    • , Shengwang Du
    • , Hui Yan
    •  & Shi-Liang Zhu
  2. Department of Physics & William Mong Institute of Nano Science and Technology, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Kowloon, Hong Kong S.A.R., China

    • Shengwang Du
  3. National Laboratory of Solid State Microstructures, School of Physics, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China

    • Shi-Liang Zhu


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S.C.Z., S.D., H.Y. and S.-L.Z. designed the experiment. Y.F.W., J.F.L., S.C.Z., K.Y.S., Y.R.Z. and K.Y.L. carried out the experiments. Y.F.W., J.F.L., S.C.Z., K.Y.S. and H.Y. conducted the raw data analysis. S.C.Z., S.D., H.Y. and S.-L.Z. wrote the paper, and all authors discussed the content of the paper. H.Y. and S.-L.Z. supervised the project.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Correspondence to Hui Yan or Shi-Liang Zhu.

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