“Nano-optical quantum memory chip” sounds cool and high-tech right? But…what is it?

Well, regular computer memory stores information in binary code (either 1 or 0) on a computer chip, but quantum memory can be both 1 and 0 simultaneously… and saved on a particle of light… still confused?

Basically, it stores data super fast and secure. Photons lack charge and mass so they can be sent through fiber optic networks with minimal interactions with other particles.

“Such a device is an essential component for the future development of optical quantum networks that could be used to transmit quantum information,” says Andrei Faraon (BS ’04), assistant professor of applied physics and materials science in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science at Caltech, and the corresponding author of a paper describing the new chip.

“This technology not only leads to extreme miniaturization of quantum memory devices, but it also enables better control of the interactions between individual photons and atoms,” says Tian Zhong, lead author of the study and a Caltech postdoctoral scholar.

This seems like a dream come true for scientists and those who envision a super high-tech world with holographic virtual reality, traveling at the speed of light, and artificial intelligence controlling robots.

Faraon’s team created memory modules of crystals coated with rare-earth ions, like a miniature racetrack 700 nanometers wide by 15 microns long. They froze them to -273.15 Celsius (0 Kelvin) then shot them with a single-photon laser. The photons came out 75 nanoseconds later with 97% accuracy.

A practical quantum network spanning hundreds of miles requires greater accuracy and to store data for at least one millisecond. The team’s next steps are to develop quantum computers for accessing such a quantum network.


  1. http://www.caltech.edu/news/first-chip-nanoscale-optical-quantum-memory-developed-79591