A quantum gate between a flying optical photon and a single trapped atom

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Andreas Reiserer, Norbert Kalb, Gerhard Rempe, Stephan Ritter


Nature 508, 237 (2014)

The steady increase in control over individual quantum systems has backed the dream of a quantum technology that provides functionalities beyond any classical device. Two particularly promising applications have been explored during the past decade: First, photon-based quantum communication, which guarantees unbreakable encryption but still has to be scaled to high rates over large distances. Second, quantum computation, which will fundamentally enhance computability if it can be scaled to a large number of quantum bits. It was realized early on that a hybrid system of light and matter qubits could solve the scalability problem of both fields - that of communication via quantum repeaters, that of computation via an optical interconnect between smaller quantum processors. To this end, the development of a robust two-qubit gate that allows to link distant computational nodes is "a pressing challenge". Here we demonstrate such a quantum gate between the spin state of a single trapped atom and the polarization state of an optical photon contained in a faint laser pulse. The presented gate mechanism is deterministic, robust and expected to be applicable to almost any matter qubit. It is based on reflecting the photonic qubit from a cavity that provides strong light-matter coupling. To demonstrate its versatility, we use the quantum gate to create atom-photon, atom-photon-photon, and photon-photon entangled states from separable input states. We expect our experiment to break ground for various applications, including the generation of atomic and photonic cluster states, Schrödinger-cat states, deterministic photonic Bell-state measurements, and quantum communication using a redundant quantum parity code.