Distributed entangled photonic states and applications

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Oxford Physics


Since the birth of Quantum Mechanics, it has been debated exactly why quantum systems behave the way they do. Particles that can instantaneously affect each other's state without interacting, quantities that can never be measured with certainty and the notion that the wavefunction is about information, rather than concrete physicality, are puzzles that every physicist ponders. Whatever its mystery, however, new science often gives rise to new technologies, and in the last 25 years physicists have realized that these strange properties of quantum mechanics may indeed be used for revolutionary new information processing machines. Among these are: quantum cryptography, ultra-fast computation, measurements with unprecedented precision and a form of teleportation. Several of these rely on quantum entanglement, which is now recognized as the crucial property enabling these new technologies. A major problem for exploiting entanglement is that it is quickly destroyed when the particles possessing these special correlations interact with the environment, though light, vibrations or collisions. The rapid loss of entanglement decreases their performance at the aforementioned tasks disappointingly.The first part of our research addresses this problem with a technique called distillation. It involves purifying a collection of particles to obtain a few highly correlated and isolated ones. The particles we study are photons resulting from the interaction between lasers and non-linear materials. Measuring some of the photons in a specifically designed combination of mirrors, detectors and half mirrors transforms degraded entangled states into cleaner ones. Preliminary experiments have succeeded in the last years in producing such states, studying their deterioration or trying to enhance their performance without separating them. Our aim is to separate the groups of photons, act on them locally (as would be required in a real communications system) and enhance their useful entanglement. To achieve this goal several tools need to be developed. First, photons have a very large number of possible characteristics, such as wavelength or direction. We need to ensure that the desired entanglement exists in the quantum state of the light in the right way that we can exploit it. Second, the large number of dimensions required to specify the state might normally require a similarly large number of measurements to characterize it. We need to develop mathematical methods where rigorous bounds on the amount of entanglement can be extracted with partial measurements. Third, these partial measurements are somewhat elaborate and need novel detectors. Such detectors have been built, showing promising results. The complexity of these photon number and photo-correlation detectors needs to be studied in more detail. To do so we will use techniques based on recently demonstrated quantum detector tomography protocols. This process, which has analogies to medical imaging, allows us to build up a full picture of the operation of our new detectors, and to thereby show that they can indeed quantify the entanglement we have distilled. Another aspect of our project is the science of measurements, metrology. The challenge lies in measuring a certain quantity with a limited amount of resources, in this case, photons. It is known that using entangled photons gives a precision beyond what can be obtained using classical light. Therefore we need to craft special quantum states of light (similar to the ones used in the first part of the project) with few photons that are designed to attain this super-classical measurement precision even when there are environmental disturbances, so that they will be useful in real-world applications. We believe that both these research projects will improve and develop the tools for quantum communication and high-precision metrology.

Planned Impact

The novel combination of quantum physics with information science has established the possibility to exploit quantum degrees of freedom in a variety of physical systems to perform tasks of complexity that is not attainable by systems behaving according to classical physics. Demonstrations of this over the past decade include the most secure methods of communication as well as the building blocks of quantum computation. The current challenges include developing from these a potentially disruptive set of technologies that will add a new dimension to the staggering impact of conventional information technologies, including communications, sensing, imaging and computation. Modern telecommunications infrastructure is largely optics based and we expect a similar setting for any future quantum communication systems. Quantum devices manipulating information coherently at the single photon level will therefore become increasingly important for present and future technologies. Therefore, the work may in the long term impact a number of optically based information technologies, and those who utilize such technologies in basic or applied research are likely to benefit from it. For example, the embedding of quantum communications technologies in the current telecom fiber infrastructure will transform present day classical networks into absolutely secure quantum ones, without the need to change the existing architecture. Along another direction, quantum sensing may allow sub-micron biomedical imaging for early detection and diagnosis, and quantum entanglement assisted devices may enable exploration of environmental hazards or ultra-precise clocks. Beneficiaries will be engaged through bilateral partnerships (e.g. CASE studentships) and networks (e.g. the UK thematic networks and IRCs and EU Integrated Projects, STREPS and Research Training Networks). Links formed by these consortia will continue to be developed on a bi and multi-partite level through visits and collaboration, such as those fomented in the FP7 IP Q-ESSENCE, and participation the FP7 CA QUIET2. All of these have strong European industrial engagement, involving partners integrated into the projects, such as idQuantique, MicroPhoton Devices and Toshiba Research Europe. Training of students and postdoctoral researchers will provide a rich resource for beneficiaries wishing to exploit technologies and ideas developed in the project. The trained personnel will be ideal partners for both academic research groups and industry. The research will be reported major conferences in the field of quauntum information processing (e.g. QIPC in Europe, and IQEC or ICQI in the US, as well as peripatetic workshops such as QCMC) and in high-visibility broad journals (e.g. Science, Nature) as well as prestigious disciplinary ones (e.g. Physical Review Letters , New Journal of Physics). We shall also seek to report at conferences that deal with cognate issues such as precision measurement (e.g. ICOLS) and imaging (e.g. CLEO or other OSA and IoP meetings). If appropriate for the output, we shall pursue patent application and licensing. A local route for engagement of industrial partners by this means is through ISIS Innovation - the University of Oxford company responsible for technology transfer. Our experience in this element of impact development suggests that we are well placed to identify and exploit outputs with impact potential. We do this by first presenting results to target audiences and partners, and by gauging interest from community and industry. Transfer of ideas using partner exchange visits will enable us to see whether these are more broadly applicable than in our own work (in the past we have followed this route to engage, for example, Oxford Quantum Computing, Toshiba and Hewlett-Packard).


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Bartley T (2015) Directly comparing entanglement-enhancing non-Gaussian operations in New Journal of Physics
Bartley TJ (2013) Direct observation of sub-binomial light. in Physical review letters
Bartley TJ (2013) Direct observation of sub-binomial light. in Physical review letters
Chakhmakhchyan L (2013) Compact entanglement distillery using realistic quantum memories in Physical Review A
DATTA A (2011) QUANTUM DISCORD AND QUANTUM COMPUTING - AN APPRAISAL in International Journal of Quantum Information
Description We have developed a number of schemes for generating complex quantum states of optical fields that have applications in quantum enhanced technologies, notably sensing, metrology, imaging and communications. We have demonstrated these schemes in the laboratory, along with novel methods for characterizing the properties of the states. Further, we have developed, in collaboration with Soton and NIST, a new way to build highly-efficient quantum detectors for broad-band quantum light pulses. These detectors have been characterized by means of full quantum measurement tomography, using methods invented in this project.
Exploitation Route Collaboration with ISIS Innovation to identify potentially patentable technology and to explore licensing options. We have both developed ideas and transferred technical knowledge to other universities and government laboratories by collaborations with: Ulm, Soton, NIST, Glasgow, Paderborn.
Sectors Electronics,Security and Diplomacy
URL https://www2.physics.ox.ac.uk/research/ultrafast-quantum-optics-and-optical-metrology
Description NIST 
Organisation National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Department National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST)
Country United States of America 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have undertaken optical modelling and characterization of superconducting photon detectors fabricated at NIST.
Collaborator Contribution NIST has fabricated superconducting photon detectors and advised us on installation and operation.
Impact Joint publications in peer-reviewed journals.
Start Year 2010
Description Paderborn 
Organisation University of Paderborn
Country Germany, Federal Republic of 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Characterization of spontaneous parametric down-conversion in multiple waveguides on a single periodically-poled KTP chip.
Collaborator Contribution Advice concerning development of a heralded photon source built with a waveguide in periodically-poled KTP.
Impact Preliminary studies of photon-pair generation in KTP waveguides at Oxford.
Start Year 2013
Description BBC Documentary - QUANTUM 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact There are opportunities for further contributions to documentaries in the future.

Documentary has not been broadcast yet.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04v5vjz