Atomic TV uses atoms to broadcast live and in color


Editor of the Technological Innovation Website – 08/31/2022

TV at

atoms are powered to a special state that allows them to function as a broadcast TV system, including live video and games.
[Imagem: NIST]

atomic TV

Researchers at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology have been developing an atomic radio for some years, in which atoms function as receivers for wireless communications.

After improving their antennas and making the atomic radio 100 times more sensitive, they have now taken the next step: They turned the atomic radio into an atomic TV.

Atom-based communication systems are of practical interest because they can be physically smaller and more tolerant of environmental noise than conventional electronics. And the addition of video capabilities can improve wireless communication systems, for example, in remote locations or emergency situations.

In their demo, the team not only presented live footage of acceptable quality, but also used the system to play video games.

“We’re now doing streaming video and quantum games, streaming video games through the atoms. We basically encode the video game into a signal and detect it with the atoms. The output is fed directly into the TV,” said Chris Holloway, team coordinator.

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An atomic TV may look futuristic, but the system is incredibly simple.
[Imagem: Nikunjkumar Prajapati et al. – 10.1116/5.0098057]

TV broadcast by tomes

The atoms used for data transmission and reception are previously prepared in high energy states, known as Rydberg atoms, which are extremely sensitive to electromagnetic fields, paving the way for their use as antennas.

While in atomic radio the team had been using cesium atoms, they now preferred the more traditional rubidium atoms, which are powered by two different laser colors.

The lasers lift the electron in the Rydberg atom into a highly energized state, which causes it to orbit the nucleus at a very great distance, but without detaching from it – therefore, without ionization. With this, the Rydberg atom has a huge radius, in the range of hundreds of nanometers. It is this large radius – more than 1,000 times the radius of a normal atom – that makes it highly sensitive to electromagnetic fields.

To receive the video, a stable radio signal is applied to the atom-filled glass container, causing energy changes in the Rydberg atoms to modulate this carrier signal. The modulated output is then connected directly to a regular television set – an analog-to-digital converter transforms the signal into a video graphics matrix format for display.

To transmit a live video or video game signal, this input is sent to a video camera to modulate the signal from the original carrier, which is then directed to a horn antenna, such as those used in microwave broadcasts, directing the transmission to the tomes.

TV at

The team had to adjust several parameters to get the best image quality (right column).
[Imagem: Nikunjkumar Prajapati et al. – 10.1116/5.0098057]

Quality for games and internet

The team had to adjust the dimensions of the laser beams, the powers and the detection methods so that the atoms could receive the videos in standard format.

The size of the laser beam affects the average time that atoms spend in the light-interaction zone, and this time is inversely related to the bandwidth of the receiver – that is, a shorter time and a shorter beam produce more data. This is because atoms move in and out of the zone of interaction, so smaller areas result in a higher signal “refresh rate”, hence better resolution.

Thinner laser beams – less than 100 micrometers – lead to shorter response times and better color reception. Atomic TV reached a data rate on the order of 100 megabits per second, considered an excellent speed for video games and home internet.

But the team will continue to work to increase the system’s bandwidth and data rates.


Article: TV and video game streaming with a quantum receiver: A study on a Rydberg atom-based receivers bandwidth and reception clarity
Authors: Nikunjkumar Prajapati, Andrew P. Rotunno, Samuel Berweger, Matthew T. Simons, Alexandra B. Artusio-Glimpse, Stephen D. Voran, Christopher L. Holloway
Magazine: AVS Quantum Science
DOI: 10.1116/5.0098057

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