Data transfer efficiency record smashed

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Scientists have set a new record in the transfer of information via superdense coding, a process by which the properties of particles like photons, protons and electrons are used to store as much information as possible.

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) transferred 1.67 bits per qubit, or quantum bit, over a fibre optic cable, edging out the previous record of 1.63 per qubit.

Whereas computers transmit information in the form of bits (generally represented by either a 1 or a 0), qubits can employ two states simultaneously and therefore represent more information than a traditional bit.

The physics of this quantum communication task employed is similar to that used by quantum computers, which use qubits to arrive at solutions to extremely complex problems faster than their bit-laden counterparts.

The team was the first to use superdense coding over optical fibre, a major achievement in the quest to adopt quantum communication to modern networking technology.

Since the team used conventional laboratory equipment such as common fibre optic cable and standard photon detectors, they have brought the technique one step closer to practical use.

As a demonstration of the technique’s effectiveness, the team transmitted the ORNL logo, an oak leaf, between two end points in the laboratory.

While the technology is at present largely experimental, practical applications could include a cost-effective way to condense and transfer information.

This includes more efficient methods for transmitting and receiving data in application areas such as the Internet and cybersecurity.

“This experiment demonstrates how quantum communication techniques can be integrated with conventional networking technology,” Williams said.

“It’s part of the groundwork needed to build future quantum networks that can be used for computing and sensing applications,” he said.

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