As the reach of quantum technologies extends ever further in communication and information science, a reliable way of transferring quantum information between distant locations becomes ever more crucial. While photons are widely accepted as excellent carriers due to their speed and low decoherence, losses of transmission (in free space or fibre) and the impossibility of cloning quantum information still pose a great challenge. The quantum repeater architecture was suggested as a solution to both problems . In a quantum repeater the information encoded in an input state is transferred to a new one through entanglement swapping, that is then sent on along the channel.
In this work we present our advances towards the realisation of a quantum repeater. Our system of choice combines a solid-state quantum memory with a source of photon pairs. The memory is based on a Rare-Earth Doped crystal, where quantum information can be stored in Pr3+ ions as a collective excitation using the Atomic Frequency Comb technique. On demand retrieval of the information is realised by transferring the excitation to a long-lived spin state. Record values of storage times and retrieval efficiencies have been demonstrated in this system . Entangled pairs of single photons are generated by parametric down conversion in a periodically poled crystal placed inside a bow-tie cavity. This allows us to generate narrow band photons pairs, where the signal is spectrally matched to the memory (606nm), while the idler is in the telecom band . Such a configuration allows us to benefit from the high performance of the memory, that also allows for temporal  and frequency  multimodality, while at the same time overcoming the high optical losses of 606nm photons by pair generation of a telecom photon.
The first stepping stone, progress towards which is presented in this work, is the successful demonstration of energy-time entanglement between the telecom idler photon and the signal photon, stored as spin-wave excitation. The entanglement of the original pair is maintained by the memory temporal multimodality. The entanglement analysis will be made through time-bin qubit analysers made of a fibre-based Mach-Zehnder interferometer, for the former, and a solid-state equivalent based on two AFC with different storage times, for the latter . In this direction we have already doubled the efficiency of the AFC storage protocols, that will be beneficial to count rates and signal-to-noise ratio. With respect to , we also increased the spectral-matching between the source and the memory . Our experiment will provide an increase in storage time of 3 orders of magnitude with respect to previous demonstrations, as well as introducing for the first time on-demand read-out in a highly multi-mode memory. Demonstration of the successful transfer of quantum information between the signal photon and the long-lived solid-state excitation will open the way to the demonstration of long-distance entanglement between individual nodes in a quantum network.