This synchronization effect, which is caused by light of different atoms joining together, doesn’t reach very far because the strength of light weakens drastically over short distances.
Now, physicists have extended the range over which atoms can synchronize their light emission by using an optical nanofiber. In an experiment, the researchers immerse a nanofiber in a cloud of cold rubidium atoms and excite the atoms with a laser beam. If an atom emits light near the fiber, the glass thread can capture the light and pipe it to another atom, even if the atoms are far apart.
The effect persisted even when physicists cleaved the atomic cloud in two so that atoms in separate clouds could only connect through the fiber, and not through other atoms in the cloud.
“We have shown that optical nanofibers are excellent for connecting atoms that are quite far apart-if the atoms were the size of people, it would be a distance of more than 300 kilometers,” says Pablo Solano, the lead author of the paper and a former JQI graduate student.
“The question now is not whether the atoms interact, but how far can we push their optical-fiber-mediated connections.” On the scale of atoms even a few meters is an enormous distance.