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Canada: Quantum Research Splitting Photons is Bigger Than it Sounds

| Editor: Alexander Stark

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo report the first occurrence of directly splitting one photon into three.

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Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo report the first occurrence of directly splitting one photon into three.
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo report the first occurrence of directly splitting one photon into three.
(Source: University of Waterloo )

Waterloo/Canada — Canadian scientists used the spontaneous parametric down-conversion method (SPDC) in quantum optics and created what quantum optics researchers call a non-Gaussian state of light. A non-Gaussian state of light is considered a critical ingredient to gain a quantum advantage. By using this method, the researchers were able to first witness the occurrence of directly splitting one photon into three.

“It was understood that there were limits to the type of entanglement generated with the two-photon version, but these results form the basis of an exciting new paradigm of three-photon quantum optics,” said Chris Wilson, a principal investigator at IQC faculty member and a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Waterloo. “Given that this research brings us past the known ability to split one photon into two entangled daughter photons, we’re optimistic that we’ve opened up a new area of exploration.”

According to Wilson, the two-photon version has been a workhorse for quantum research for over 30 years. He thinks that three photons will overcome the limits and will encourage further theoretical research and experimental applications and the development of optical quantum computing using superconducting units.

Wilson used microwave photons to stretch the known limits of SPDC. The experimental implementation used a superconducting parametric resonator. The result clearly showed the strong correlation among three photons generated at different frequencies. Ongoing work aims to show that the photons are entangled.

Wilson explains that non-Gaussian states and operations were a critical ingredient for obtaining the quantum advantage. They were very difficult to simulate and model classically, which had resulted in a dearth of theoretical work for this application.

References: The study Observation of Three-Photon Spontaneous Parametric Down-Conversion in a Superconducting Parametric Cavity was published in Physical Review X on January 16, 2020.

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