Quantum internet goes hybrid


Schematic illustration of a hybrid information network with two quantum nodes composed of a cold cloud of rubidium (left red cloud) and a doped crystal with praseodymium ions (right white cube). Source: ICFO/Scixel


From right to left: Dr Margherita Mazzera, Dr Georg Heinze, Nicolas Maring, Prof. Hugues de Riedmatten, Dr Kutlu Kutluer and Pau Farrera. Source: ICFO


From right to left: Nicolas Maring, Pau Farrera and Dr Georg Heinze at the experimental setup. Source: ICFO

Researchers from the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO), an associate institute of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), report the first demonstration of an elementary link of a hybrid quantum information network, using a cold atomic cloud and a doped crystal as quantum nodes and single telecom photons as information carriers. The study, published in Nature, demonstrates the communication and transmission of quantum information between two completely different types of quantum nodes placed in different labs. This achievement shows that it is possible to build a quantum hybrid network with heterogeneous elements that is fully compatible with the current fibre-optic telecommunication infrastructure.

Nov 24, 2017

In a recent study, published in Nature, ICFO researchers Nicolas Maring, Pau Farrera, Dr. Kutlu Kutluer, Dr. Margherita Mazzera, and Dr. Georg Heinze, led by ICREA Prof. Hugues de Riedmatten of the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA), have achievedreported on an elementary “hybrid” quantum network link and demonstrated for the first time photonic quantum communication between two very distinct quantum nodes placed in different laboratories, using a single photon as an information carrier.

Today, quantum information networks are ramping up to become a disruptive technology that will provide radically new capabilities for information processing and communication. Recent research suggests that this quantum network revolution might be just around the corner.

The key elements of a Quantum quantum Informationinformation Network network are quantum nodes, that which store and process the information made up of matter systems, such as like cold atomic gases or doped solids, among others, and communicating particles, mainly photons. While photons seem to be perfect information carriers, there is still uncertainty as to which matter system could be used as a network node, as because each system provides different functionalities. Therefore, the implementation of a hybrid network has been proposed, searching to combine with a view to combining the best capabilities of different material systems.

Past studies have documented reliable transfers of quantum information between identical nodes, but this is the first time this has ever been achieved with a “hybrid” network of nodes. The ICFO researchers have been able to come up with a solution to for making a hybrid quantum network work and solve have solved the challenge of a reliable transfer of quantum states between different quantum nodes via single photons. A single photon needs to interact strongly and in a noise-free environment with the heterogeneous nodes or matter systems, which generally function at different wavelengths and bandwidths. As Nicolas Maring states ”it’s like having nodes speaking in two different languages. In order for them to communicate, it’ is necessary to convert the single photon’s properties so it can efficiently transfer all the information between these different nodes.

How did they solve the problem?
In their study, the ICFO researchers used two very distinct different quantum nodes: the emitting node was a laser-cooled cloud of rRubidium atoms and the receiving node was a crystal doped with Praseodymium praseodymium ions. From the cold gas, they generated a quantum bit (qubit) encoded in a single photon with a very -narrow bandwidth and a wavelength of 780 nm. They then converted the photon to the telecommunication’s wavelength of 1552 nm to demonstrate that this network could be completely compatible with the current telecom C-band range. Subsequently, they sent it through an optical fibreer from one lab to the other. Once in the second lab, the photon’s wavelength was converted to 606 nm in order to interact correctly and transfer the quantum state to the receiving doped crystal node. Upon interaction with the crystal, the photonic qubit was stored in the crystal for approximately 2.5 microseconds and retrieved with very high fidelity.

The results of the study have shown that two very different quantum systems can be connected and can communicate by means of a single photon. As ICREA Professor at ICFO Hugues de Riedmatten commentssays, “being able to connect quantum nodes with very different functionalities and capabilities and transmitting quantum bits by means of single photons between them represents an important milestone in the development of hybrid quantum networks”. The ability to perform back- and- forth -conversion of photonic qubits at the telecom C-band wavelength shows that these systems would be completely compatible with the current telecom networks.

Advantages of Quantum quantum vs Classical classical Information information Networksnetworks
The classical information network or “world wide web” was developed in the 1980s, with information flowing through the network by means of “bits”, processed and modulated by electronic circuits and chips and transmitted by light pulses that move information throughu the network with minimal signal losses via optical fibreers.

Now, instead of using the classical bits, quantum information networks (or quantum internet) process and store quantum information through quantum bits or “qubits”. While bits can be 0s or 1s, qubits can also be in any superposition of these two states.   In a quantum network, they are generated and processed by quantum matter systems, e.g. cold atomic gases, doped solids or other systems. Contrary Unlike into classical networks, quantum information is transferred between the nodes using single photons instead of strong light pulses.

Quantum information networks (consisting of matter quantum nodes and quantum communication channels) will open up a new pathway of disruptive technologies, enabling, for example, perfectly secure data transmission, enhanced data processing via distributed quantum computing, and or advanced clock synchroniszation applications, among others.

About ICFO

ICFO - The Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO), an associate institute of the UPC and a, member of The the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology, is a research centercentre located in a specially designed, 14,.000- m2square-metre -building situated in the Mediterranean Technology Park in the metropolitan area of Barcelona. It currently hosts 400 people, including research group leaders, post-doctoral researchers, PhD doctoral students, research engineers, and administrative staff. The   ICFOnians Icfonians are organized divided into 27 research groups working in 60 state-of-the-art research laboratories, equipped with the latest experimental facilities and supported by a range of cutting-edge facilities for nanofabrication, characteriszation, imaging and engineering. 

The Severo Ochoa distinction awarded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation, as well as 14 ICREA Professorships, 25 European Research Council grants and 6 Fundació Cellex Barcelona Nest Fellowships, demonstrate the centre’s institute’s dedication to research excellence, as does the institute’s its consistent appearance in top worldwide positions in international rankings. From an industrial standpoint, ICFO participates actively in the European Technological Platform Photonics21 and is also very proactive in fostering entrepreneurial activities and spin-off creation.   The Itcenter participates in incubator activities and seeks to attract venture capital investment. ICFO It also hosts an active Corporate Liaison Programme that aims at creatingto create collaborations and links between industry and ICFO researchers. To date, ICFO has created 6 six successful start-up companies.