Scientists find a photon 'translator' that could revolutionize fiber optics

Illustration for article titled Scientists find a photon 'translator' that could revolutionize fiber optics

Quantum computing uses visible light. Current fiber optic cables transmit infrared. Scientists have found a way to ‘translate' signals as small as a single photon from one to the other.

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Quantum computing has been described as both fast and unhackable. Data is transmitted in bursts of photons. The photons are polarized a certain way. The intended recipient of the transmission knows this way, and has a polarization filter aligned in such a way that it will provide them with a message or a pass code. If anyone between those two people cuts in with a filter of their own, they had better hope it is perfectly aligned with the recipient's filter, or both they and the recipients will receive a garbled message. Not only will they not have what they want, but the recipient will know that their messages are being intercepted.

Security and speed are tempting combinations, but they have to be combined with accessibility. Wavelengths transmitted through cables won't always be the wavelengths that can't be read by the machines their messages are intended for.

A new breakthrough translates the signal from one – useless – wavelength going in to one understandable wavelength coming out. It does this through Bragg scattering. In Bragg scattering, light hits a lattice of atoms. It scatters off those atoms at the same angle it came in. It results in a predictable interference pattern, which allows scientists to ‘boost' the energy of photons coming down a fiber optic cable in an orderly way. This change in energy becomes a change in wavelength, which can make the photons compatible with the machines they're sent to.

This means a fast, relatively wide, range of signals can be sent over a cable. This color shift becomes a universal translator.

Via Physlink, CSA, and Hyperphysics.

DISCUSSION

boulderholder

So, how would you split the signal? You would always have to have a straight-line connection from peer to peer otherwise things wouldn't line up, right? So if you needed more than one destination, you'd have to either use multiple lines or have some kind of router, which would split the signal. That would make the router hackable, wouldn't it?

I'm confused and intrigued.