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Detecting dangerous chemicals with lasers, exploring the brain's circuitry with light and more
Date:4/22/2008

struments, which is powered by a tiny array of infrared quantum cascade lasers on a chip smaller than a dime. The chip holds an array of 32 lasers, each emitting a distinct wavelength and together covering a broad spectral range in the infrared region. The researchers new paper demonstrates that their device could identify common chemicals as well as a conventional tabletop instrument, which has a much larger footprint. It is the first time that a laser of this type, capable of such performance, has been reported.

The advantage of using a laser source is that lasers are much brighter than thermal sources thus providing a higher signal-to-noise ratio. The lasers can also be fine-tuned to provide wavelengths on demand to scan accurately for chemicals of interestakin to having thousands of canaries, each capable of detecting a range of chemicals. (Talk CMH1, "Continuously Tunable Compact Single-Mode Quantum Cascade Laser Source for Chemical Sensing.")


SECURE COMMUNICATIONS VIA SPACE

The exchange of information between distant sources is the basis of all communications, but quantum mechanics may open up this distant exchange as never before. Quantum key distribution, for instance, would allow for absolutely secure encryption of information exchange by encoding information keys on single photons. These photons are so sensitive that there is physically no way to undetectably tamper with them as they travel from sender to receiver. Teleportation of quantized states is another possible application. This would allow future quantum computers to be interconnected using the properties of individualized photons or other quanta.

To achieve this type of technology, an exchange of single quanta between a sender and a remote receiver must occur. Already, some companies have explored ways of achieving quantum key distribution over fiber optics, but it has never been done using satellites. Paolo Villoresi and his colleagues at
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Contact: Colleen Morrison
cmorri@osa.org
202-416-1437
Optical Society of America
Source:Eurekalert

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