An international team of scientists from the UK, Sweden, Italy, and the Netherlands has discovered a powerful new method for precisely controlling the optical circuitry inside optical fibers. The result is expected to facilitate the realization of unbreakable communication networks and ultrafast quantum computers. The relevant paper was published in the 19th issue of the journal Nature Physics.
The head of the latest research, Professor Mayur Malik of Heriot-Watt University in the United Kingdom, explained that light can carry a large amount of information, and optical circuits that use light rather than electricity for computation are seen as the next major leap in computing technology. But as optical circuits have become more complex, they have become more difficult to control and fabricate, which has also affected their performance. In their latest research, they exploited the natural scattering behavior of light inside commercial optical fibers to program the optical circuits within them highly precisely.
When light enters an optical fiber, it is scattered and mixed in complex ways. By gaining insight into this complex process and precisely shaping the light that enters the fiber, the team found a way to program the optical circuits within it.
Beyond Binary Quantum Information Lab (BBQLab) members
Malik says that scientists can encode a lot of information on a photon, such as its spatial structure, time, and color. If all of these attributes could be used for computation simultaneously, enormous processing power would be unleashed. Optical circuits are crucial to the development of quantum technology, including quantum computers with powerful processing power and quantum communication networks that cannot be hacked. Optical circuits are needed at the end of quantum communication networks to make measurements of information after it has traveled long distances; quantum computers use optical circuits to make complex calculations on light particles. Quantum computers are expected to play an important role in areas such as drug development, climate prediction, and space exploration, and machine learning also requires optical circuits to process large amounts of data quickly.
The researchers showed how to manipulate quantum entanglement with their programmable optical circuits. Entanglement plays an important role in many quantum technologies, such as correcting errors within quantum computers and enabling the most secure quantum encryption.