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    The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
    • 2020-01-23 12:30:42
    • Article ID: 725607

    Quantum experiments explore power of light for communications, computing

    • Credit: Christopher Tison and Michael Fanto/Air Force Research Laboratory.

      Researchers in ORNL’s Quantum Information Science group summarized their significant contributions to quantum networking and quantum computing in a special issue of Optics & Photonics News.

    A team from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has conducted a series of experiments to gain a better understanding of quantum mechanics and pursue advances in quantum networking and quantum computing, which could lead to practical applications in cybersecurity and other areas.

    ORNL quantum researchers Joseph Lukens, Pavel Lougovski, Brian Williams, and Nicholas Peters—along with collaborators from Purdue University and the Technological University of Pereira in Colombia—summarized results from several of their recent academic papers in a special issue of the Optical Society’s Optics & Photonics News, which showcased some of the most significant results from optics-related research in 2019. Their entry was one of 30 selected for publication from a pool of 91.

    Conventional computer “bits” have a value of either 0 or 1, but quantum bits, called “qubits,” can exist in a superposition of quantum states labeled 0 and 1. This ability makes quantum systems promising for transmitting, processing, storing, and encrypting vast amounts of information at unprecedented speeds.

    To study photons—single particles of light that can act as qubits—the researchers employed light sources called quantum optical frequency combs that contain many precisely defined wavelengths. Because they travel at the speed of light and do not interact with their environment, photons are a natural platform for carrying quantum information over long distances.

    Interactions between photons are notoriously difficult to induce and control, but these capabilities are necessary for effective quantum computers and quantum gates, which are quantum circuits that operate on qubits. Nonexistent or unpredictable photonic interactions make two-photon quantum gates much more difficult to develop than standard one-photon gates, but the researchers reached several major milestones in recent studies that addressed these challenges.

    For example, they made adjustments to existing telecommunications equipment used in optics research to optimize them for quantum photonics. Their results revealed new ways to use these resources for both traditional and quantum communication.

    “Using this equipment to manipulate quantum states is the technological underpinning of all these experiments, but we did not expect to be able to move in the other direction and improve classical communication by working on quantum communication,” Lukens said. “These interesting and unanticipated findings have appeared as we delve deeper into this research area.”

    One such tool, a frequency beam splitter, divides a single beam of light into two frequencies, or colors, of light.

    “Imagine you have a beam of light going down an optical fiber that has a particular frequency, say, red,” Lukens said. “Then, after going through the frequency beam splitter, the photon will leave as two frequencies, so it will be both red and blue.”

    The members of this team were the first researchers to successfully design a quantum frequency beam splitter with standard lightwave communications technology. This device takes in red and blue photons simultaneously, then produces energy in either the red or the blue frequency. By using this method to deliberately change the frequencies of photons, the team tricked the stubborn particles into beneficial interactions based on quantum interference, the phenomenon of photons interfering with their own trajectories.

    “It turned out that off-the-shelf devices can deliver impressive control at the single-photon level, which people didn’t know was possible,” Lougovski said.

    Additionally, the researchers completed the first demonstration of a frequency tritter, which splits a beam of light into three different frequencies instead of two. Their results indicated that multiple quantum information processing operations can run at the same time without introducing errors or damaging the data.

    Another key accomplishment was the team’s design and demonstration of a coincidence-basis controlled-NOT gate, which enables one photon to control a frequency shift in another photon. This device completed a universal quantum gate set, meaning any quantum algorithm can be expressed as a sequence within those gates.

    “Quantum computing applications require much more impressive control levels than any sort of classical computing,” Lougovski said.

    The team also encoded quantum information in multiple independent values known as degrees of freedom within a single photon, which allowed them to observe quantum entanglement-like effects without needing two separate particles. Entanglement usually involves two linked particles in which changes made to the state of one particle also apply to the other.

    Finally, the researchers have completed quantum simulations of real-world physics problems. In collaboration with scientists at the Air Force Research Laboratory, they are now developing tiny, specialized silicon chips similar to those common in microelectronics in pursuit of even better photonic performance. 

    “In theory, we can get all these operations onto a single photonic chip, and we see a lot of potential for doing similar quantum experiments on this new platform,” Lukens said. “That’s the next step to really move this technology forward.”

    Future quantum computers will allow scientists to simulate incredibly complex scientific problems that would be impossible to study on current systems, even supercomputers. In the meantime, the team’s findings could help researchers embed photonic systems into current high-performance computing resources.

    “We have a very diverse and talented team,” Lougovski said. “The most important thing is we’re getting results.”

    This research was funded by ORNL’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program.

    UT-Battelle LLC manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory for DOE’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.—Elizabeth Rosenthal

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    Argonne researchers target lithium-rich materials as key to more sustainable, cost-effective, next-generation batteries

    Argonne researchers target lithium-rich materials as key to more sustainable, cost-effective, next-generation batteries

    Researchers are developing new ways to advance lithium-rich batteries and using new materials for practical use, according to researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory.

    Faced with pandemic shortages, researchers combine heat and humidity to disinfect N95 masks for reuse

    Faced with pandemic shortages, researchers combine heat and humidity to disinfect N95 masks for reuse

    They found that gently heating N95 masks in high relative humidity could inactivate SARS-CoV-2 virus trapped within the masks, without degrading the masks' performance.

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    Scientists develop forecasting technique that could help advance quest for fusion energy

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    Renowned physicist and former diagnostics developer at PPPL wins Asia Pacific plasma physics award

    Renowned physicist and former diagnostics developer at PPPL wins Asia Pacific plasma physics award

    Hyeon Park honored with 2020 Subramanyan Chandrasekhar Prize for Plasma Physics from the Division of Plasma Physics of the Association of Asia Pacific Physical Societies. The prize recognizes Park for his work developing an essential diagnostic tool for tokamak fusion facilities throughout the world.

    The American Nuclear Society designates the groundbreaking Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor a Nuclear Historic Landmark

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    Brian O'Neill Named New Director for the Joint Global Change Research Institute

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    SLAC's Xijie Wang wins prestigious accelerator science award

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    Xijie Wang, an accelerator physicist at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, will receive the 2021 Nuclear and Plasma Science Society's Particle Accelerator Science and Technology Award. Bestowed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the prestigious award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the development of particle accelerator science and technology.

    Argonne materials scientist Arturo Gutierrez named 2020 Luminary Honoree by HENAAC

    Argonne materials scientist Arturo Gutierrez named 2020 Luminary Honoree by HENAAC

    Argonne materials scientist Arturo Gutierrez has been recognized by HENAAC, the national organization that honors Hispanic scientists and engineers.

    DOE Funding Boosts Artificial Intelligence Research at Jefferson Lab

    DOE Funding Boosts Artificial Intelligence Research at Jefferson Lab

    Two physicists at DOE's Jefferson Lab have secured $2.16 million in funding for projects that harness the power of data analytics to make the work of studying the universe down to its smallest subatomic parts faster and more efficient.

    Argonne National Laboratory and AT&T extend climate resiliency project nationwide

    Argonne National Laboratory and AT&T extend climate resiliency project nationwide

    Argonne and AT&T have been working together to project risks from changing climate on America's Southeastern region. Today they've announced that they're extending their analysis to cover the entire contiguous U.S.

    Key Partners Mark Launch of Electron-Ion Collider Project

    Key Partners Mark Launch of Electron-Ion Collider Project

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    Fermilab scientist Vladimir Shiltsev elected to Academia Europaea

    Fermilab scientist Vladimir Shiltsev elected to Academia Europaea

    Widely recognized for his work in accelerator beam physics, Shiltsev is one of 361 individuals elected to Academia Europaea, which promotes a wider appreciation of the value of European scholarship and research.

    PPPL physicist Hutch Neilson receives award for decades of leadership on national and international fusion experiments

    PPPL physicist Hutch Neilson receives award for decades of leadership on national and international fusion experiments

    Hutch Neilson, a physicist at PPPL who is head of ITER Projects, has received the 2020 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' (IEEE) Nuclear & Plasma Sciences Society (NPSS) Merit Award for decades of achievements, including collaborations with fusion experiments around the world from the Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X) stellarator in Germany to the international ITER experiment in the south of France.


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    Harvesting Energy from Light using Bio-inspired Artificial Cells

    Harvesting Energy from Light using Bio-inspired Artificial Cells

    Scientists designed and connected two different artificial cells to each other to produce molecules called ATP (adenosine triphosphate).

    Engineering Living Scaffolds for Building Materials

    Engineering Living Scaffolds for Building Materials

    Bone and mollusk shells are composite systems that combine living cells and inorganic components. This allows them to regenerate and change structure while also being very strong and durable. Borrowing from this amazing complexity, researchers have been exploring a new class of materials called engineered living materials (ELMs).

    Excavating Quantum Information Buried in Noise

    Excavating Quantum Information Buried in Noise

    Researchers developed two new methods to assess and remove error in how scientists measure quantum systems. By reducing quantum "noise" - uncertainty inherent to quantum processes - these new methods improve accuracy and precision.

    How Electrons Move in a Catastrophe

    How Electrons Move in a Catastrophe

    Lanthanum strontium manganite (LSMO) is a widely applicable material, from magnetic tunnel junctions to solid oxide fuel cells. However, when it gets thin, its behavior changes for the worse. The reason why was not known. Now, using two theoretical methods, a team determined what happens.

    When Ions and Molecules Cluster

    When Ions and Molecules Cluster

    How an ion behaves when isolated within an analytical instrument can differ from how it behaves in the environment. Now, Xue-Bin Wang at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory devised a way to bring ions and molecules together in clusters to better discover their properties and predict their behavior.

    Tune in to Tetrahedral Superstructures

    Tune in to Tetrahedral Superstructures

    Shape affects how the particles fit together and, in turn, the resulting material. For the first time, a team observed the self-assembly of nanoparticles with tetrahedral shapes.

    Tracing Interstellar Dust Back to the Solar System's Formation

    Tracing Interstellar Dust Back to the Solar System's Formation

    This study is the first to confirm dust particles pre-dating the formation of our solar system. Further study of these materials will enable a deeper understanding of the processes that formed and have since altered them.

    Investigating Materials that Can Go the Distance in Fusion Reactors

    Investigating Materials that Can Go the Distance in Fusion Reactors

    Future fusion reactors will require materials that can withstand extreme operating conditions, including being bombarded by high-energy neutrons at high temperatures. Scientists recently irradiated titanium diboride (TiB2) in the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) to better understand the effects of fusion neutrons on performance.

    Better 3-D Imaging of Tumors in the Breast with Less Radiation

    Better 3-D Imaging of Tumors in the Breast with Less Radiation

    In breast cancer screening, an imaging technique based on nuclear medicine is currently being used as a successful secondary screening tool alongside mammography to improve the accuracy of the diagnosis. Now, a team is hoping to improve this imaging technique.

    Microbes are Metabolic Specialists

    Microbes are Metabolic Specialists

    Scientists can use genetic information to measure if microbes in the environment can perform specific ecological roles. Researchers recently analyzed the genomes of over 6,000 microbial species.


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