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Atomic Vapor Becomes Optical Memory Device
Scientists at the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI) of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland have demonstrated that they can store visual images within a thin vapor of rubidium atoms - an effort that could be helpful in creating memory for quantum computers. Their work builds on an approach developed at the Australian National University, where scientists showed that a rubidium vapor could be manipulated in interesting ways using magnetic fields and lasers. The vapor is contained in a small tube and magnetized, and a laser pulse made up of multiple light frequencies is fired through the tube. The energy level of each rubidium atom changes depending on which frequency strikes it, and these changes within the vapor become a sort of fingerprint of the pulse's characteristics. "We've taken this same idea and applied it to storing an image ? basically moving up from storing a single 'pixel' of light information to about a hundred," says Paul Lett, a JQI physicist. This short animation shows the NIST logo that they stored within a vapor of rubidium atoms.
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