Erbium-doped crystal: the perfect material for a quantum internet

Erbium-doped crystal: the perfect material for a quantum internet

Researchers at the Australian National University (ANU), led by Associate Professor Matthew Sellars , have shown that an erbium-enhanced crystal is specially adapted to enable a global telecommunications network that takes advantage of the strange properties of quantum mechanics.


The work , published in Nature Physics , demonstrates how to dramatically improve the storage time of a telecommunications-compatible quantum memory.

As explained by Sellars , Program Manager at the Center for Quantum Computing and Communication Technology (CQC2T) at ANU:

We have shown that an erbium-doped crystal is the perfect material to form the building blocks of a quantum Internet that will unlock the full potential of future quantum computers. We had this idea ten years ago, but many of our colleagues told us that such a simple idea could not work, and seeing this result, it is good to know that our approach was the right one.

Sellars has also pointed out that the new technology can also be operated as a quantum light source or used as an optical link for solid-state quantum computing devices.

Photonoticia 20170911173001 640

Erbium , a rare ion on Earth, has unique quantum properties. Erbium doped crystals or glasses can be used in optical amplification, in which erbium ions are optically pumped around the 980nm or 1480nm wavelengths and radiate light at 1550nm wavelengths.

This process can be used to create lasers and optical amplifiers. Erbium (from Ytterby, a Swedish city) was discovered by Carl Gustaf Mosander in 1843. Mosander separated the "yttria" from the mineral gadolinite into three fractions which he named yttria, erbia, and terbia. He named the new element after the city of Ytterby, where large concentrations of yttria and erbium were found.

As Sellars concludes:

Not only is our material compatible with existing fiber optics, but its versatility means that it will be able to connect with many types of quantum computers, including CQC2T silicon qubits, and superconducting qubits such as those developed by Google and IBM.