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Trapping light

posted Dec 26, 2009, 9:17 AM by Ahmed Obaid
This ability to store light may lead to more efficient ways to communicate, as well as new ways to explore quantum mechanical properties such as entanglement.

Researchers knew that the information carried in light pulses could be transferred to clouds of ultracold atoms, called Bose-Einstein condensates. In this technique, a laser called a control laser prepares the atomic cloud for an incoming light beam. As the photons fly in, they leave an imprint in a subset of the atoms. This imprint, stored in a quantum property known as spin, contains all the relevant information needed to reconstitute the light beam. But the imprint is fragile and deteriorates in milliseconds. The light’s information is lost as other atoms in the cloud interfere with the imprint.
Researchers overcame this problem by sequestering the matter imprint from the rest of the atoms in the cloud.

Transferring information between light and atoms could one day lead to better communication networks.