They demonstrated a method for refining entangled atom pairs (a process called purification) so they can be more useful in quantum computers and communications systems, emerging technologies that exploit the unusual rules of quantum physics for pioneering applications such as “unbreakable” data encryption.
The reported purification rate is a record (although the entangled state is not yet pure enough for use in a working computer or other device) with more than one success for every three attempts, compared to one in a million in the photon experiments. Theoretically, the NIST process could be enhanced and then repeated as many times as necessary to create a stream of near-perfectly entangled pairs in a computer or network. The NIST team’s continuing research aims to substantially improve the purification operations through, for example, improved control of magnetic fields and laser intensity.
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