The next generation photon source for quantum information research

Over the last two decades, tremendous advances have been made in the field of quantum information science. Scientists are capitalizing on the strange nature of quantum mechanics to solve difficult problems in computing and communications, as well as in sensing and measuring delicate systems.

One avenue of research in this field is optical quantum information processing, which uses photons tiny particles of light that have unique quantum properties.

A key resource to advance research in quantum information science would be a source that could efficiently and reliably produce single photons. However, because quantum processes are inherently random, creating a photon source that produces single photons on demand presents a challenge at every step.

Now University of Illinois Physics Professor Paul Kwiat and his former postdoctoral researcher Fumihiro Kaneda (now an assistant professor at Frontier Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Sciences at Tohoku University) have built what Kwiat believes is “the world’s most efficient single photon source.

And they are still improving it. With planned upgrades, the apparatus could generate upwards of 30 photons at unprecedented efficiencies. Sources of that caliber are precisely what’s needed for optical quantum information applications.

Kwiat explains, A photon is the smallest unit of light: Einstein’s introduction of this concept in 1905 marked the dawn of quantum mechanics. Today, the photon is a proposed resource in quantum computation and communication its unique properties make it an excellent candidate to serve as a quantum bit, or qubit.”

Photons move quickly perfect for long distance transmission of quantum states and exhibit quantum phenomena at the ordinary temperature of our everyday life, adds Kaneda.

Other promising candidates for qubits, such as trapped ions and superconducting currents, are only stable in isolated and extremely cold conditions. So the development of on demand single photon sources is critical to realizing quantum networks and might enable small room-temperature quantum processors.

Sources / Further Reading: University of illinois

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