Physicists at The Australian National University conducted an experiment involving light that resembles a popular scene from the movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens where Kylo Ren used the Force to stop a laser blast mid-air. In their experiment, they were able to stop light, which they believe could pave the way to quantum computing and solve problems that current technology could not.
The research team created a light trap by shining infrared lasers into ultra-cold atomic vapor. They determined that light was stopped when some of the photons got trapped and frozen inside the atomic cloud.
“Corralling a crowd of photons in a cloud of ultra-cold atoms creates more opportunities for them to interact,” points out the study’s co-researcher Geoff Campbell from the university’s Research School of Physics and Engineering and ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology. “We’re working towards a single photon changing the phase of a second photon. We could use that process to make a quantum logic gate, the building block of a quantum computer.”
The findings are now available in the journal Nature Physics. The researchers also uploaded a video on YouTube that shows Associate Professor Ben Buchler and Geoff Campbell talking about their successful experiment.
Now that they have proven that they can control light, lead researcher Jesse Everett says this could open the way for optical quantum computers, which can solve a lot of problems that our present-day computers could not.
Quantum computers based on photons or light could one day connect easily with optic fibers and other communication technology. This could help various fields, including medicine, defence, telecommunications and financial services.
Nevertheless, the lead researchers admit that further research about optical quantum computing is needed. Still, he is optimistic that their study brings us a step closer to achieving this feat.