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A recent development has brought scientists one step closer to achieving a quantum internet.

According to senior author Professor Tim Schröder from the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and his colleagues, diamond material is crucial for future technologies like the quantum internet as special defect centers can be utilized as qubits that emit single light particles known as single photons. To ensure feasible communication rates over long distances in a quantum network, it is essential to collect all photons in optical fibers without any losses and to ensure that all photons have the same frequency.

In their study, the researchers were able to generate and detect photons with stable frequencies emitted from quantum light sources, specifically from nitrogen-vacancy defect centers in diamond nanostructures. This was made possible by selecting the diamond material carefully, using nanofabrication techniques, and employing specific experimental control protocols to reduce electron noise, which previously disturbed data transmission. As a result, the photons were emitted at a stable frequency suitable for communication.

An artist’s impression of defect centers in diamond nanostructures. They can be used as quantum bits. Via quantum entanglement, quantum information can be stored in emitted single photons and transmitted in optical fibers in the future quantum internet. Image credit: HU Berlin / AG Integrierte Quantenphotonik.

The team’s findings suggest that communication rates between spatially separated quantum systems can potentially be increased more than 1,000-fold, bringing us one step closer to a quantum internet. The diamond nanostructures, which are 1,000 times thinner than a human hair, were optimized to transfer emitted photons into glass fibers in a directed manner. However, during the fabrication of the nanostructures, the atomic-level damage to the material surface and the creation of uncontrollable noise by free electrons caused fluctuations in photon frequency.

The researchers used a diamond material with a high density of nitrogen impurity atoms in the crystal lattice that could shield the quantum light source from electron noise. They noted that the physical processes need to be further studied in the future.

The research is published in the journal Physical Review X.

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