Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

World's smallest radio stations: Two molecules communicate via single photons

Date:
February 28, 2012
Source:
ETH Zürich
Summary:
We know since the dawn of modern physics that although events in our everyday life can be described by classical physics, the interaction of light and matter is down deep governed by the laws of quantum mechanics. Despite this century-old wisdom, accessing truly quantum mechanical situations remains nontrivial, fascinating and noteworthy even in the laboratory. Recently, interest in this area has been boosted beyond academic curiosity because of the potential for more efficient and novel forms of information processing.

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.
Credit: Robert Lettow

We know since the dawn of modern physics that although events in our everyday life can be described by classical physics, the interaction of light and matter is down deep governed by the laws of quantum mechanics. Despite this century-old wisdom, accessing truly quantum mechanical situations remains nontrivial, fascinating and noteworthy even in the laboratory. Recently, interest in this area has been boosted beyond academic curiosity because of the potential for more efficient and novel forms of information processing.

In one of the most basic proposals, a single atom or molecule acts as a quantum bit that processes signals that have been delivered via single photons. In the past twenty 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 Zurich 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. Among many challenges in the way of performing such an experiment is the realization of a suitable source of single photons, which have the proper frequency and bandwidth. Although one can purchase lasers at different colors and specifications, sources of single photons are not available on the market.

So a team of scientists led by Professor Vahid Sandoghdar made its own. To do this, they took advantage of the fact that when an atom or molecule absorbs a photon it makes a transition to a so-called excited state. After a few nanoseconds (one thousand millionth of a second) this state decays to its initial ground state and emits exactly one photon. In their experiment, the group used two samples containing fluorescent molecules embedded in organic crystals and cooled them to about 1.5 K (-272 °C). Single molecules in each sample were detected by a combination of spectral and spatial selection.

To generate single photons, a single molecule was excited in the “source” sample. When the excited state of the molecule decayed the emitted photons were collected and tightly focused onto the “target” sample at a distance of a few meters. To ensure that a molecule in that sample “sees” the incoming photons, the team had to make sure that they have the same frequency. Furthermore, the precious single photons had to interact with the target molecule in an efficient manner. A molecule is about one nanometer is size (100000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair) but the focus of a light beam cannot be smaller than a few hundred nanometers.

This usually means that most of the incoming light goes around the molecule, i.e. without them seeing each other. However, if the incoming photons are resonant with the quantum mechanical transition of the molecule, the latter acts as a disk that is comparable to the area of the focused light. In this process the molecule acts as an antenna that grabs the light waves in its vicinity. 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.

The experimental work was performed at ETH Zurich before the group of Prof. Sandoghdar moved to the newly founded Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light in Erlangen in 2011.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by ETH Zürich. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Y. L. A. Rezus, S. G. Walt, R. Lettow, A. Renn, G. Zumofen, S. Götzinger, and V. Sandoghdar. Single-Photon Spectroscopy of a Single Molecule. Physical Review Letters, 108, 093601; Feb 27, 2012

Cite This Page:

ETH Zürich. "World's smallest radio stations: Two molecules communicate via single photons." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 February 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120228101712.htm>.
ETH Zürich. (2012, February 28). World's smallest radio stations: Two molecules communicate via single photons. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 15, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120228101712.htm
ETH Zürich. "World's smallest radio stations: Two molecules communicate via single photons." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120228101712.htm (accessed September 15, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Monday, September 15, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Frustration As Drone Industry Outpaces Regulation In U.S.

Frustration As Drone Industry Outpaces Regulation In U.S.

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) — U.S. firms worry they’re falling behind in the marketplace as the FAA considers how to regulate commercial drones. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smart Gun Innovators Fear Backlash From Gun Rights Advocates

Smart Gun Innovators Fear Backlash From Gun Rights Advocates

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) — Winners of a contest for smart gun design are asking not to be named after others in the industry received threats for marketing similar products. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Have Captured The Sound Of An Atom

Scientists Have Captured The Sound Of An Atom

Newsy (Sep. 12, 2014) — Scientists have captured the sound of a single atom by measuring its vibrations. We can't hear it, but it's reportedly the faintest sound possible. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Solar Flare Surges Off Sun

Solar Flare Surges Off Sun

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 11, 2014) — NASA captures video of a significant flare surging off the sun. Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:  

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile iPhone Android Web
    Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins