Using atoms of the rare-earth element europium embedded in yttrium orthosilicate (YSO) crystals, the scientists have shattered previous records for quantum information retention by creating a storage device capable of holding quantum state information for up to six hours at a time.
Quantum data encryption already offers the promise of intrinsically secure electronic data interchange over relatively short distances (up to around 100 km (62 mi) or so). However, this latest research may help enable a worldwide quantum-encrypted communications network by providing unprecedented storage capabilities and effectively negating the instability problems inherent in currently available technology.
"We believe it will soon be possible to distribute quantum information between any two points on the globe," said Manjin Zhong, a researcher on the project from the ANU's Research School of Physics and Engineering (RSPE). "Quantum states are very fragile and normally collapse in milliseconds. Our long storage times have the potential to revolutionize the transmission of quantum information."