Composite image by Yuen Yiu, Staff Writer and Abigail Malate, Staff Illustrator. Fiber-Optic photo by Matthew.nq/Wikimedia , (CC by 4.0)
Scientists break the record for data transfer efficiency by using photons and quantum communication techniques.
Scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have broken the efficiency record for data transfer. Using a quantum communication process known as superdense coding, they squeezed through an average 1.67 bits of data per qubit. Qubits, which is short for "quantum bits," are units of data that utilize quantum properties to store information.
The result beats the previous record of 1.63 bits per qubit. Even more importantly, the experiment used only simple, off-the-shelf technology, taking quantum communication closer to practical applications in the future. The work will appear in Physical Review Letters.
More bang for your bit
Computers send information in units called bits, which represent either a one or a zero. These bits can be understood as gumballs that one party (Alice) sends to another party (Bob). In a classical system, Bob would register a one if he receives a gumball and a zero for a space between gumballs. However, these gumballs also contain other properties that are not communicated in the classical system, such as color or flavor. The properties are analogous to quantum properties such as polarization or angular momentum, which can be found in the photons and electrons we use to transfer data today.
"We're basically trying to see what quantum abilities there are, and try to see what can we use them for," said Brian Williams, a quantum physicist from Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He is the lead author of the paper.
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