Scientists store whole image on a single photon
Whoa...slow down there
An entire image's worth of data has been encoded into a single photon, without information being lost, for the first time.
Credit: University of Rochester
The image "UR", for New York's University of Rochester, where the work was carried out, was also decoded (pictured above) after being stored briefly.
The team behind the development, pubished in Physical Review Letters, say it opens the door to optical buffering and eventual long-term light-based information storage. Optical buffering is also a way to beat a communications bottleneck: converting an optical signal to an electronic one.
Assistant professor of physics, and leader of the team that created the device, John Howell said: "It sort of sounds impossible, but instead of storing just ones and zeros, we're storing an entire image. It's analogous to the difference between snapping a picture with a single pixel and doing it with a camera - this is like a six megapixel camera."
The image was created simply by shining a single photon through a minute stencil. At that scale, quantum mechanics dictates that a single photon passes through all the holes in the stencil simultaneously, picking up the shadow - or the information - from each one.
The photon then passed into a four inch "cell" of caesium gas at 100°C, where it was slowed. The new approach to slowing light used by the researchers means that thousands of information-bearing photons could be stored in a single cell without data being lost.
Alan Willner, professor of electrical engineering at the University of Southern California and president of the IEEE Lasers and Optical Society said: "The parallel amount of information John has sent all at once in an image is enormous in comparison to what anyone else has done before. To do that and be able to maintain the integrity of the signal - it's a wonderful achievement."
The next stage for the team is to attempt to store a photon permanently - the breakthrough which could lead to true light storage of vast quantities of information. ®
Professor Howell had to do a little back-pedalling on the claims made in the Univerity's press information. See here at Scientific American.
Wrong wrong wrong
Quotes from the article posted above:
'Howell was bemused that some media outlets focused in on one aspect of the report: that an entire image was somehow produced from a single photon, the smallest unit of light. "A lot of people are getting excited about the single photon," he says.
"The people that are more aware of this are wondering how we're measuring an image from a photon—and we're not," Howell says.'
Wave particle duality of light is a well known physical phenomenon, the 'filter' they are using is just a fancy grid of Young's slit experiment. Yes, one photon carries information, but you still need a big ol' filter to create that information, and the output will not be visible. As my learned friend at the beginning of these comments explains very comprehensively - it is information only.
Perhaps there will be an application for this in transmitting information, but its imaging capabilities seem limited compared to what is already available. The problem with transmission however is that any medium in which the information has to travel will cause some sort of attenuation. And one again it seems limited compared to what we have already.
In years to come this may well be the answer to some sticky data storage or transmission issues (more likely storage), but not now, and not like you've reported here.
Bad reporting I'm afraid to say.
Still the ignorance of the comments above is puzzling. Evolution is a sound theory with tons of evidence to support it. Photons DO all travel through the grating at one time (not sure what you mean by herding? They travel in straight lines, so wherever you point them, they will go).
This is BS
This is BS at its worse.
Remember, scientists still believe in Evolution, so its no wonder BS like this still gets thrown into the pot.
Photons don’t behave like little sheep - easily herded into gratings. This is rubbish!
Did seem implausible
Thanks David - if they had stored that image on a single photon some fundamental laws would have to have been rewritten.