The experimental realization of long-lived quantum memory
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Quantum communication between two remote locations often involves remote parties sharing an entangled quantum state. At present, entanglement distribution is usually performed using photons transmitted through optical fibers. However, the absorption of light in the fiber limits the communication distances to less than 200 km, even for optimal photon telecom wavelengths. To increase this distance, the quantum repeater idea was proposed. In the quantum repeater architecture, one divides communication distance into segments of the order of the attenuation length of the photons and places quantum memory nodes at the intermediate locations. Since the photon loss between intermediate locations is low, it is possible then to establish entanglement between intermediate quantum memory nodes. Once entanglement between adjacent nodes is established, one can extend it over larger distances using entanglement swapping. The long coherence time of a quantum memory is a crucial requirement for the quantum repeater protocol. It is obvious that the coherence time of a quantum memory should be much longer that the time it takes for light to travel between remote locations. For a communication distance l = 1000 km, the corresponding time is t = l/c = 3.3 ms. One can show that for a simple repeater protocol and realistic success probabilities of entanglement generation, the required coherence time should be on the order of many seconds, while for the more complicated protocols that involve multiplexing and several quantum memory cells per intermediate node, the required coherence time is on the order of milliseconds. In this thesis, I describe a quantum memory based on an ensemble of rubidium atoms confined in a one-dimensional optical lattice. The use of the magnetically- insensitive clock transition and suppression of atomic motion allows us to increase coherence time of the quantum memory by two-orders of magnitude compared to previous work. I also propose a method for determining the Zeeman content of atomic samples. In addition, I demonstrate the observation of quantum evolution under continuous measurement. The long quantum memory lifetime demonstrated in this work opens the way for scalable processing of quantum information and long distance quantum communication.