Detection of single photons via quantum entanglement

Jul 08, 2013
As a 'quantum pendulum' the ions swing in both directions at the same time. Credit: IQOQI/Knabl

Almost 200 years ago, Bavarian physicist Joseph von Fraunhofer discovered dark lines in the sun's spectrum. It was later discovered that these spectral lines can be used to infer the chemical composition and temperature of the sun's atmosphere. Today we are able to gain information about diverse objects through light measurements in a similar way. Because often very little light needs to be detected for this, physicists are looking for ever more sensitive spectroscopy methods. In extreme cases, also single particles of light (photons) need to be measured reliably, which is technically challenging.

Thus, physicists at the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) at the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Institute for Experimental Physics of the University of Innsbruck take a detour via the technique of spectroscopy. It was developed some years ago by the group of Nobel laureate David Wineland to build extremely precise . This is one of the first practical applications of and, in the next few years, may lead to a redefinition of the second in the international system of units.

Measurement via entanglement

Christian Roos' and Cornelius Hempel's team of physicists in Innsbruck isolated single ions in an ion trap to study them under controlled conditions. "We do not try to detect the photon that is emitted or absorbed by an ion, but rather the momentum kick the ion receives upon absorption or emission," explains Cornelius Hempel. "While this effect is extremely small, we can detect it by means of ." The physicists use an additional 'logic' ion, on which the measurement is performed. "This (40Ca+) can be controlled very well in the experiment," says Hempel. As spectroscopy ion the researchers use another isotope of calcium (44Ca+).

In the experiment a laser pulse excites the particles and entangles the electronic state of the logic ion with the vibration of the particles. "In this configuration, also called Schrödinger cat state, the ions swing like a classical pendulum in a trap. But as a 'quantum pendulum' they swing in both directions at the same time," describes Hempel the central part of the experiment. "We then excite the ion we want to investigate by applying different laser frequencies. At a certain frequency the ion emits a single photon and receives a minimal momentum kick, which causes the vibrational components to be slightly displaced. This can be observed through the electronic state of the logic ion. Combined with this information, the frequency of the laser then allows us to gain information about the internal state of the spectroscopy ion." In the current experiment the scientists detected single photons with a probability of 12 %. "We, thus, prove that this technique works in principal. With a technically optimized set-up we will be able to considerably increase the sensitivity," say Roos and Hempel confidently.

Universal application

"By using the exotic concept of quantum mechanical entanglement we are able to gain practical knowledge about single particles," says Christian Roos excitedly. "Since our method of measurement does not depend that much on the wave length of the detected photon, it may be used for various purposes," adds Cornelius Hempel. For example, energy levels of different atoms and molecules could be investigated by using this technique. Because it is difficult to control molecules in an experiment, this method is an enormous progress for studying more complex structures.

Explore further: New research signals big future for quantum radar

More information: Entanglement-enhanced detection of single-photon scattering events. C. Hempel, B. P. Lanyon, P. Jurcevic, R. Gerritsma, R. Blatt, C. F. Roos. Advance online publication. Nature Photonics 2013 DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2013.172

Related Stories

Into the quantum internet at the speed of light

Feb 04, 2013

Not only do optical fibers transmit information every day around the world at the speed of light, but they can also be harnessed for the transport of quantum information. In the current issue of Nature Ph ...

Efficient and tunable interface for quantum networks

May 23, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Quantum computers may someday revolutionize the information world. But in order for quantum computers at distant locations to communicate with one another, they have to be linked together in ...

Entanglement in a flash (w/ video)

Jun 05, 2013

(Phys.org) —JQI researchers under the direction of Chris Monroe have produced quantum entanglement between a single atom's motion and its spin state thousands of times faster than previously reported, demonstrating unprecedented ...

Playing quantum tricks with measurements

Feb 15, 2013

A team of physicists at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, performed an experiment that seems to contradict the foundations of quantum theory—at first glance. The team led by Rainer Blatt reversed a ...

Recommended for you

New filter could advance terahertz data transmission

Feb 27, 2015

University of Utah engineers have discovered a new approach for designing filters capable of separating different frequencies in the terahertz spectrum, the next generation of communications bandwidth that ...

The super-resolution revolution

Feb 27, 2015

Cambridge scientists are part of a resolution revolution. Building powerful instruments that shatter the physical limits of optical microscopy, they are beginning to watch molecular processes as they happen, ...

Precision gas sensor could fit on a chip

Feb 27, 2015

Using their expertise in silicon optics, Cornell engineers have miniaturized a light source in the elusive mid-infrared (mid-IR) spectrum, effectively squeezing the capabilities of a large, tabletop laser onto a 1-millimeter ...

A new X-ray microscope for nanoscale imaging

Feb 27, 2015

Delivering the capability to image nanostructures and chemical reactions down to nanometer resolution requires a new class of x-ray microscope that can perform precision microscopy experiments using ultra-bright ...

New research signals big future for quantum radar

Feb 26, 2015

A prototype quantum radar that has the potential to detect objects which are invisible to conventional systems has been developed by an international research team led by a quantum information scientist at the University ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

vacuum-mechanics
1 / 5 (4) Jul 09, 2013
"By using the exotic concept of quantum mechanical entanglement we are able to gain practical knowledge about single particles," says Christian Roos excitedly. "Since our method of measurement does not depend that much on the wave length of the detected photon, it may be used for various purposes," adds Cornelius Hempel. For example, energy levels of different atoms and molecules could be investigated by using this technique. Because it is difficult to control molecules in an experiment, this method is an enormous progress for studying more complex structures.


Because we do not know how the propagation of photon works (in which we could call it as 'magic wave'), while because we do not know what wave function of quantum mechanics is (so it may be called as 'ghost wave')! Understanding the mechanism of the two waves as below could help the studying more.
http://www.vacuum...17〈=en

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.