Communications Entanglement on a Chip: A Secure Communications Breakthrough
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Unlike Bilbo’s magic ring, which entangles human hearts, engineers have created a new micro-ring that entangles individual particles of light, an important first step in a whole host of new technologies.
Entanglement - the instantaneous connection between two particles no matter their distance apart - is one of the most intriguing and promising phenomena in all of physics. Properly harnessed, entangled photons could revolutionize computing, communications, and cyber security. Though readily created in the lab and by comparatively large-scale optoelectronic components, a practical source of entangled photons that can fit on an ordinary computer chip has been elusive.
New research, reported by The Optical Society’s (OSA), describes how a team of scientists has developed a microscopic component that is small enough to fit onto a standard silicon chip that can generate a continuous supply of entangled photons.
The new design is based on an established silicon technology known as a micro-ring resonator. These resonators are actually loops that are etched onto silicon wafers that can corral and then reemit particles of light. By tailoring the design of this resonator, the researchers created a novel source of entangled photons that is incredibly small and highly efficient, making it an ideal on-chip component.
"The main advantage of our new source is that it is at the same time small, bright, and silicon based," said Daniele Bajoni, a researcher at the Università degli Studi di Pavia in Italy and co-author on the paper. "The diameter of the ring resonator is a mere 20 microns, which is about one-tenth of the width of a human hair. Previous sources were hundreds of times larger than the one we developed."
Entanglement and Innovation
Scientists and engineers have recognized the practical potential of entangled photons. This curious manifestation of quantum physics, which Einstein called a "spooky action at a distance," has two important implications in real-world technology.
First, if something acts on one of the entangled photons then the other one will respond to that action instantly, even if it is on the opposite side of a computer chip or even on the opposite side of the Galaxy. This behavior could be harnessed to increase the power and speed of computations. The other implication is that the two photons can be considered to be a single entity, which would allow for new communication protocols that are immune to spying.
This seemingly impossible behavior is essential, therefore, for the development of certain next-generation technologies, such as computers that are vastly more powerful than even today’s most advanced super- computers, and secure telecommunications.
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