Quantum light can be mastered

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory propose that modulated quantum metasurfaces can control all properties of photonic qubits. If true, the breakthrough may impact quantum information, communications, sensing and imaging, and energy and momentum harvesting. Study results were released in the journal Physical Review Letters, published by the American Physical Society.

The team modulated in time and space the optical properties of a quantum metasurface that allowed it to manipulate, on-demand, all degrees of freedom of a single photon.

Metasurfaces are ultrathin structures that can manipulate light in ways not usually seen in nature. The team’s metasurface looked like an array of rotated crosses, which they can then manipulate with lasers or electrical pulses. They then proposed to shoot a single photon through the metasurface, where the photon splits into a superposition of many colors, paths, and spinning states that are all intertwined, generating so-called quantum entanglement–meaning the single photon is capable of inheriting all these different properties at once.

By manipulating these properties, this technology could be used to encode information in photons traveling within a quantum network. Encoding photons is particularly desirable in cryptography as “eavesdroppers” are unable to view a photon without changing its fundamental physics, which if done would then alert the sender and receiver that the information has been compromised.

Original Release: Eureka Alert

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