Watch Your Next Film on Gas

While many of us mere mortals may barely understand this, researchers at the University of Maryland have just figured out a way to store film as a gas. Their findings, explained in a paper titled, “Temporally Multiplexed Storage of Images in a Gradient Echo Memory,” explain how they’ve managed to store two frames of light signals with room-temperature gas.

While there aren’t too many practical uses for the findings as of yet, it is possible that it could eventually be part of the building blocks for computers.

At the moment, the technique stores information in very small vials of rubidium and does so by beaming light into a 20cm long tube. Then, when they want to play the film back, they flip it backwards and the control beam is burned on. When the atoms move in the opposite direction, the film plays.

As one of the researchers explained, “The big thing here is that this allows us to do images and do pulses (instead of individual photons) and it can be matched (hopefully) to our squeezed light source, so that we can soon try to store ‘quantum images’ and make essentially a random access memory for continuous variable quantum information. The thing that really attracted us to this method—aside from its being pretty well-matched to our source of squeezed light—is that the ANU group was able to get 87% recovery efficiency from it – which is, I think, the best anyone has seen in any optical system, so it holds great promise for a quantum memory.”

While many of us may not have understood a word of this, we can certainly enjoy the YouTube song that was inspired by it.


James Fishman has been involved in the world of online magazines for more than 15 years. He helped launch Sunstone Online and continues to improve the magazine as site editor and administrator. His writing focuses primarily business and technology. To be in touch with James, feel free to contact him at james[at]

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