Brainy Quote of the Day

Friday, March 9, 2012

"Spukhafte Fernwirkung..."

"Spooky action at a distance" - Einstein

Artist's view of a single molecule sending a stream of single photons to a second molecule at a distance, in quantum analogy to the radio communication between two stations. Image: Robert Lettow

In the past 20 years scientists have shown that single molecules can be detected and single photons can be generated. However, excitation of a molecule with a photon had remained elusive because the probability that a molecule sees and absorbs a photon is very small. As a result, billions of photons per second are usually impinged on a molecule to obtain a signal from it. One common way to get around this difficulty in atomic physics has been to build a cavity around the atom so that a photon remains trapped for long enough times to yield a favorable interaction probability. Scientists at ETH Z├╝rich and Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light in Erlangen have now shown that one can even interact a flying photon with a single molecule.

The results of the study published in Physical Review Letters provide the first example of long-distance communication between two quantum optical antennas in analogy to the 19th century experiments of Hertz and Marconi with radio antennas. In those early efforts, dipolar oscillators were used as transmitting and receiving antennas. In the current experiment, two single molecules mimic that scenario at optical frequencies and via a nonclassical optical channel, namely a single-photon stream. This opens many doors for further exciting experiments in which single photons act as carriers of quantum information to be processed by single emitters.

Research and Development: Two molecules communicate via single photons

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