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In what could break new ground in the field of quantum communications, a group of researchers from the University of Cambridge unveiled a new method that they say can make sending, storing, and retrieving highly fragile quantum information possible.

The breakthrough, if found to be possible, could play a big role in the future development of a quantum internet.

The researchers designed a technique that better controls the way a cloud of atomic nuclei behaves. In the cloud, they injected a single particle, encoded with quantum information (also known as a quantum bit).

The haystack, the needle, and the lasers

The problem was, this kind of thing comes with noise. Every nucleus is spinning in a different direction within the cloud. It becomes near-impossible to identify the particle with the information.

The physicists then used lasers and a single electron, to control the spins of the nuclei, restore order to the cloud, and subsequently managed to detect the existence of the quantum information more easily.

The process is akin to trying to find a needle in a haystack. With some help from experimental physics, the researchers injected a ‘needle’ made of quantum information into a ‘haystack’ of atomic nuclei, then somehow managed to control the way the haystack behaved, to find the needle.

Pinning down a qubit

In a cloud of 100,000 spinning nuclei, the researchers were able to pin down the qubit they were looking for. As the race to develop quantum computers rages on, interest in quantum communications is also growing.

All of these things are closely tied to the field of quantum computing, where methods are in development, to send and receive qubits.

We are still a long way from fully-fledged quantum computing but, this research is a step in that direction.