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Atomic Television at the National Institute of Standards and Technology

By Mabsoot

Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology are utilizing rubidium atoms as receivers to detect and display live color television and video games. This new atomic system could soon be utilized to create small and flexible communication devices which do not rely on electronics. Adding video capabilities may potentially advance radio systems, permitting them to be more effective in remote locations and during emergency situations.

The receiver stationed at the NIST uses atoms which are prepared in Rydberg states. Rydberg states is the state of either an atom or molecule in which one of the electrons has been excited to a high principal quantum number orbital. Atoms within such circumstances are sensitive to electromagnetic fields.

19ctl002 holloway in lab 4
Chris Halloway – NIST

Chris Holloway, the project leader at NIST, says that the team has discovered how to, “stream and receive videos through Rydberg atom sensors”. Researchers are now conducting video streaming and quantum gaming. Holloway explains that the method works by, “encoding the video game onto a signal and detecting it with the atoms” causing the output to be, “fed directly into the TV”.

Members of the National Institute of Standards and Technology are utilizing two different colored lasers in order to assemble gaseous rubidium atoms into Rydberg states. These atoms will be held in glass containers. The experimental set up was initially used with cesium atoms in an effort to exhibit the radio receiver.

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For a video to be received, a secured radio signal needs to be applied to the glass container comprised with atoms. Researchers and scientists would then be able to detect any energy shifts in the Rydberg atoms that regulate the carrier signal. Such modulated output is fed to a television with an analog-to-digital converter translating the signal into a video graphics format.

For a live video signal or video game to be displayed, the input is then sent from a video camera to attune the initial carrier signal. This input is then directed to a horn antenna where the atoms are transmitted to. The original carrier signal is utilized as a comparison variable to the final video output.

Through studies and experiments, researchers have discovered that the beam size impacts the average time that atoms remain in the laser interaction zone. This time correlates to the bandwidth of the receiver and so, a shorter time and a smaller beam expel more data. This phenomenon is due to the fact that atoms pass in and out of the interaction zone causing smaller areas to have better resolution.

Small beam diameters that are less than 100 micrometers result in faster responses and higher quality color resolution. The system achieved 100 megabits of data per second, creating above proficient speed for video gaming and household internet usage. Research continues on how to increase the system’s bandwidth and data rates.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency alongside the NIST on a Chip program are responsible for partially funding this experiment.

cover image credit Mabsoot

Source phys.ttu.edu NIST
Via The bylt™ team

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