Researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI), a collaborative center of the University of Maryland and NIST, have reported a new way to fine-tune the light coming from quantum dots by manipulating them with pairs of lasers. Their technique, published in Physical Review Letters,* could significantly improve quantum dots as a source of pairs of entangled photons, a property with important applications in quantum information technologies. The accomplishment could accelerate development of powerful advanced cryptography applications, projected to be a key 21st-century technology.
Entangled photons are a peculiar consequence of quantum mechanics. Tricky to generate, they remain interconnected even when separated by large distances. Merely observing one instantaneously affects the properties of the other. The entanglement can be used in quantum communication to pass an encryption key that is by its nature completely secure, as any attempt to eavesdrop or intercept the key would be instantly detected. One goal of the NIST-JQI team is to develop quantum dots as a convenient source of entangled photons.
Quantum dots are nanoscale regions of a semiconductor material similar to the material in computer processors but with special properties due to their tiny dimensions. Though they can be composed of tens of thousands of atoms, quantum dots in many ways behave almost as if they were single atoms. Unfortunately, almost is not good enough when it comes to the fragile world of quantum cryptography and next-generation information technologies. When energized, a quantum dot emits photons, or particles of light, just as a solitary atom does. But imperfections in the shape of a quantum dot cause what should be overlapping energy levels to separate. This ruins the delicate balance of the ideal state required to emit entangled photons.
To overcome this problem, the NIST-JQI
|Contact: Mark Bello|
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)