Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A new phase in reading photons

07.01.2013
A JQI photodetector beats the quantum limit by a factor of 4

"That's not what I meant": human communication is fraught with misinterpretation. Written out in longhand, words and letters can be misread. A telegraph clerk can mistake a dot for a dash. Noise will always be with us, but at least a new JQI (*) device has established a new standard for reading quantum information with a minimum of uncertainty.

Success has come by viewing light pulses not with a single passive detector with but an adaptive network of detectors with feedback. The work on JQI's new, more assured photonic protocol was led by Francisco Becerra and carried out in Alan Migdall's JQI lab. They report their results in Nature Photonics (**). Here are some things you need to know to appreciate this development.

HOW TO MODULATE?

Digital data, in its simplest form, can be read with a process called on-off keying: a detector senses the intensity of incoming bursts of electrons in wires or photons through fibers and assigns a value of 0 or 1. A more sophisticated approach to modulating a signal (not merely off/on) is to encode data in the phase of the pulse. In "phase-shift keying," information is encoded in the amount of phase shift imposed on a carrier wave; the phase of the wave is how far along the wave cycle you happen to be (say, at the top of a crest or the bottom of a trough in a sinusoidal, as in this figure).

WHAT KIND OF ALPHABET?

Larger words can be assembled from a small suite of symbols. The Roman alphabet has 26 letters, the Greek only 24. Binary logic, and most transistors, makes do with just a two-letter alphabet. Everything is a 0 or a 1, and larger numbers and letters and words are assembled from as many binary bits as are necessary. But what if we enlarged the alphabet from two to four? In quaternary logic more data can be conveyed in a single pulse. The cost of this increase is having to write and read 4 states of modulation (or 4 symbols). Even more efficient in terms of packing data, but correspondingly more difficult to implement, is logic based on 6 states, or 8, or any higher number. Digital data at its most basic---at the level of transistor---remains in binary form, but for communicating this data, higher number alphabets can be used. In fact, high-definition television delivery already involves high-level logic.

UNCERTAINTY

No matter what kind of logic is used, errors creep in. A detector doesn't just unequivocally measure a 0 or a 1. The reading process is imperfect. And even worse, the state of the light pulse is inherently uncertain, and that is a real problem when the light pulses belong to a set of overlapping states. This is illustrated in the figure below for binary and quaternary phase states.

On the left side of the figure, the measurement of the phase of a light pulse is depicted, where there are only two choices. Is the pulse in the alpha state or the –alpha state? Because the tails of one overlap the other there is a slight ambiguity that leads to uncertainty in which state a measurement indicates. On the right, four possible states are depicted on a complex-number graph (with real (Re) and imaginary (Im) axes). Here the overlap of the states is more complicated, but results in similar ambiguities of the measured states, seen mostly near the borders (decision threshold lines) between the states.

STANDARD QUANTUM LIMIT

Decades ago communications theory established a minimal uncertainty for the accurate transmission and detection of information encoded in overlapping states. The hypothetical minimal detection error using conventional schemes is called the standard quantum limit and it depends on things like how many photons of light comprise the signal, how many levels (binary, quaternary, etc.) need to be read out, and which physical property of light is used to encode the information, such as the phase.

But starting in the 1970s with physicist Carl W. Helstrom, some scientists have felt that the standard quantum limit could be circumvented. The JQI researchers do exactly this by using not a single passive photo-detector, but an active detection process involving a series of stages. At each stage, the current light signal strikes a partially-silvered mirror, which peels off a fraction of the pulse for analysis and the rest goes on to subsequent stages. At each stage the signal is combined with a separate reference oscillator wave used as a phase reference against which the signal phase is determined. This is done by shifting the reference wave by a known amount and letting it interfere with the signal wave at the beamsplitter. By altering that known shift, the interference pattern can reveal something about the phase of the input pulse.

ACTIVE DETECTION

By combining many such stages (see the figure below) and using information gained by previous stages to adjust the phase of the reference wave in successive stages, a better estimate of the signal phase can be obtained.

Detecting phase in this adaptive way, and implemented in a feedback manner, the JQI system is able to beat the standard quantum limit for a set of 4 states (quaternary) encoding information as a phase. These states are represented as fuzzy distributions arranged at different angles around a circle as seen in the figure above where the angles represent the phase of the light pulses.

The JQI noise-reduction achievement is depicted in the graph below. The error rate is plotted as a function of the mean number of photons used to deliver the information. The standard quantum limit (SQL) is the red line. The light gray line is the SQL line if you take into account that individual photon detector stages used were ~72% efficient rather than 100% (with the detector efficiencies being 84%. In the business of detecting single photons, 84% is top of the line.)

The error probabilities measured for the system (black points with error bars) fall well below the quantum limit, by about 6 decibels in the center of the curve. This is equivalent to saying that the JQI receiver is performing better than the SQL by a factor of about 4 in determining the phase of an incoming signal. That is, the JQI receiver achieves an error probability that is 4 times lower than the so-called "Standard Quantum Limit." This graph shows results for a system that implements 10 adaptive measurements. The two other lines on the chart show what the expected uncertainty would be for a perfect system (100% efficient detectors) and without any of the imperfections that would be encountered in any realistic implementation, and a hypothetical ultimate-limit on uncertainty derived by Helstrom.

To conclude, the JQI photon receiver features an error rate four times lower than perfect conventional receivers, over a wide range of photon number, and with discrimination for four states. The only previous detection below the quantum limit was for a very narrow range of photons and with only a 2-state protocol and only slightly below the SQL.

(*)The Joint Quantum Institute (JQI) is operated jointly by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, MD and the University of Maryland in College Park.

(**) "Experimental demonstration of a receiver beating the standard quantum limit for multiple nonorthogonal state discrimination," by F. E. Becerra, J. Fan, G. Baumgartner, J. Goldhar, J. T. Kosloski, and A. Migdall, Nature Photonics, published online 6 January 2013.

Alan Migdall, migdall@nist.gov, 301-975-2331

Press contact at JQI: Phillip F. Schewe, pschewe@umd.edu, 301-405-0989. http://jqi.umd.edu/

Phillip F. Schewe | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.umd.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Further Improvement of Qubit Lifetime for Quantum Computers
09.12.2016 | Forschungszentrum Jülich

nachricht Electron highway inside crystal
09.12.2016 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>