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Another attractive application of entangled photons is in optical imaging. The detail that can be resolved in ordinary images is limited by the wavelength of the light used. Using entangled photons, however, it is possible to produce finer images. This could be useful for very high-resolution microscopy of cell structure in medical diagnosis or to produce finer patterns in the manufacture of ultra-dense computer chips.
Until now, the most reliable method of producing entangled photons was by pumping a non-linear crystal with a strong laser beam. However, this process is inefficient and cannot produce photon pairs at controlled times. In contrast, the new device produces photons in response to an external trigger pulse, which is essential for many applications. The semiconductor device is also more compact, robust and potentially much cheaper, since it can be mass manufactured with a similar process to ordinary semiconductor light emitting devices. The breakthrough could therefore lead to photon entanglement being exploited in a wide range of light-based applications.
The Managing Director of TREL's Cambridge Research Laboratory, Professor Sir Michael Pepper, commented "In Toshiba we have been convinced for a long time that fundamental physics could be used for a new generation of communication systems that give entirely new functions such as inherent security. The ability to generate entangled photons on demand, by pressing a switch, opens the door to many new applications. These include quantum computers based on novel principles and may even extend to consumer electronics as entangled photons can be used to make devices with much smaller features than normal photons."
The work was partially funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council through the IRC in Quantum Information Processing and EC Future and Emerging Technologies programme.
About Toshiba Corporation
Toshiba Corporation is a leader in information and communications systems, electronic components, consumer products and power systems. The company's integration of these wide-ranging capabilities assures its position as an innovator in advanced components, products and systems. Toshiba has more than 161,000 employees worldwide and annual sales of US$53 billion (FY2003).