Editorial Feature

What is Quantum Memory?

Devices and applications based on quantum mechanics are already positively affecting the technology landscape. The advancement of quantum computing and communication has taken large strides over the last decade. A vital part of any computing or communication device is to store information. Analogous to how a classical digital computer has RAM or other storage mediums to store data and retrieve them to use in calculations, a quantum computer also requires a quantum memory.

What is Quantum Memory, Quantum Memory

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The fundamental building block of a quantum computer is a qubit. Qubits are generated using a variety of methods. They are encoded with data derived from various quantum mechanical properties. These properties could be amplitude, phase, polarization, or other degrees of freedom. Cubits based on one of these properties are carried by entangled photons for computations and communications.

Quantum Memory

Quantum memory devices are developed to store the quantum state of a photon, which can be later retrieved in the same quantum state. The quantum state has to be maintained for a user-defined amount of time without losing the entangled information through decoherence. Coherent matter systems are necessary for quantum memories; otherwise, the medium's ability to store quantum information will be compromised by decoherence.

Quantum memories behave conceptually similarly to classical memories. Both mechanisms are used for storing the desired information and granting the user access at a certain later date. The reading and writing operations in traditional computing are simple when taken to their most basic form. In order to write, an external system emits a binary value of 0 or 1, which is then transmitted to the classical memory, observed there, and altered to reflect the value that was sent in. The reading operation is analogous to the opposite; it involves initiating a read request at a specific time, seeing the specified value in memory, copying it, and sending it to the intended location.

Quantum memory is a crucial tool to improve the performance, security, speed, and scalability of many quantum systems used in communications, computing, metrology, and other fields.

Quantum entanglement dispersion over vast distances and through several quantum memories is crucial for the development of a quantum computing network.

Although the expectations seem clear-cut, the reality is frequently more complicated. For example, a quantum state that is unknown must be "recorded" without changing the system and then replicated at a user-defined time without directly disrupting the state. This is a difficult task to complete effectively because of the fragility of quantum information. However, just as quantum mechanics poses a problem, creative use of fundamental quantum optics concepts offers a number of solutions.

Types of Quantum Memories

Several proposals for quantum memory systems have been experimented with. For example, single photon memory, general state memory, memories that emit photons that can be directly measured, and memories that emit photons that can be directly measured through retrieval.

The needs of the experiment, specifically the characteristics of the photons that are to be stored, determine the type of memory to be used. For instance, single photon memory systems are set up to "replicate" and record single photon states. The general state memory would be ideal if an experiment needed to store a more generic multi-photon state. Some quantum memory techniques are summarized below.

Quantum Memory Based on Optical Cavity

Using a cavity to store and release the photon as needed is one very simple method of constructing quantum memory. A photon can be trapped inside the cavity after it enters it and extracted after a given time. The simplicity and low cost of a cavity-based quantum memory's architecture, as well as its extraordinarily wide working wavelength range, are its key benefits. The cavity, however, is unable to offer a lengthy preservation period due to the loss within the cavity. Additionally, the cavity length typically sets a limit on the storage duration.

Quantum Memories Based on Matter

The majority of methods for creating quantum memories rely on storing elements like atoms, atomic ensembles, ions, or molecules. These methods change the photon's quantum state, known as a flying qubit, into the storage medium's quantum state, known as a stationary qubit. The stationary qubit is transformed back into a flying qubit following the necessary storage period. Three different matter-based quantum memory strategies can be distinguished: optically controlled, engineered absorption, and a combination of these two strategies.

  • Quantum memory that is optically controlled by a powerful optical pulse is used in the optically controlled technique to cause photon absorption into the storage media. Raman quantum memory and electromagnetically induced transparency are now the two main methods used in this concept.
  • Artificial Absorption Atomic Memory Engineered absorption is a crucial quantum memory method that is based on the photon echo effect. In this concept, controlled reversible inhomogeneous broadening and atomic frequency combs are the two applicable methods.
  • In Quantum Hybrid Memory, the storage medium is similar to the designed absorption scheme in a hybrid scheme that combines these two strategies, and it also employs a control beam and a three-energy-level structure like the optically controlled scheme. Therefore, a majority of the benefits of both the optically regulated and designed absorption methods are retained by the hybrid approach.

Future Outlook

Future quantum networks, including quantum repeaters, which can enable long-distance quantum communication, will depend heavily on quantum memories. Beyond their potential uses, quantum memories are intriguing because they offer a mechanism to examine the transfer of quantum effects like entanglement between physically distinct systems, such as between systems of light and matter.

It will be necessary to conduct incredibly delicate quantum experiments to explore and confirm the relationships between the fundamentals of quantum mechanics and general relativity. The realization of focused space-based experiments will eventually become necessary in order to provide the most comprehensive understanding of this interesting field of physics. Due to their high stage of development and decades of advancement, quantum technologies—in particular, quantum memories—are offering fresh techniques to obtain conclusive experimental results.

More from AZoQuantum: New Cryogenic On-Wafer Prober for Quantum Material Characterization

References and Further Reading

Ma L, Slattery O, Tang X. Optical Quantum Memory and its Applications in Quantum Communication Systems. J Res Natl Inst Stand Technol. 2020 Jan 16;125:125002. doi: 10.6028/jres.125.002. PMID: 35646477; PMCID: PMC9119665.

Mikael Afzelius, Nicolas Gisin, Hugues de Riedmatten; Quantum memory for photons. Physics Today 1 December 2015; 68 (12): 42–47. https://doi.org/10.1063/PT.3.3021

Jan-Michael Mol et al 2023 Quantum Sci. Technol. 8 024006. DOI 10.1088/2058-9565/acb2f1

Simon, Christoph et al. 2010. Quantum Memories: A Review based on the European Integrated Project “Qubit Applications (QAP)”. The European Physical Journal. D, Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics. 58(1): 1-22.

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Written by

Ilamaran Sivarajah

Ilamaran Sivarajah is an experimental atomic/molecular/optical physicist by training who works at the interface of quantum technology and business development.


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