Quantum cloning: Radiometry on a small scale
GENEVA – Measuring the luminous power of light is a basic task in physics laboratories
and telecom applications. Until recently, however, measuring light energy in an
absolute manner has required the complex equipment and techniques available only
in metrology laboratories.
Theoretical breakthroughs have enabled physicists at the University
of Geneva to build a device that can measure the amount of light in an optical fiber
without the need for calibration. The setup can determine absolute measurement of
luminous power over a broad range, from a few photons to tens of nanowatts. The
device’s accuracy was verified by comparing it with an instrument calibrated
by the Swiss metrology laboratory.
Although its accuracy of approximately 1 percent is not quite
as good as that of the systems in a metrology laboratory, which can reach 0.01 percent
under ideal conditions, it offers absolute calibration, is simpler to implement
and can be arranged on a small desktop, making it a practical addition to a typical
The study, by Bruno Sanguinetti, with co-authors Enrico Pomarico,
Pavel Sekatski, Hugo Zbinden and Nicolas Gisin, was published August 2010 in Physical
The cloning process consisted of injecting an unknown number of
photons into a 2-m erbium-doped fiber, where excited erbium atoms were stimulated
to emit photons.
Researchers at the University of Geneva have built a device that
measures the energy of light by cloning photons. The setup consists of three parts:
The first section (top) generates light; the second, the cloning apparatus, uses
stimulated emission to amplify the incoming light; and the third (below) is a polarimeter,
which takes a direct measure of the spectral radiance of the input, determining
the fidelity of the cloning process. Courtesy of Bruno Sanguinetti.
“These other photons are the clones, imperfect copies of
the input photons,” Sanguinetti said.
Although the polarization of most of the clones matched that of
the input light, the polarization of some clones was perpendicular. By comparing
the vertically and horizontally polarized light – a relative measurement requiring
no calibration – the investigators could determine the cloning fidelity
of the device and calculate the absolute amount of incident light.
Because stimulated emission is fundamentally tied to spontaneous
emission, some noise is added, reducing the cloning fidelity. In designing their
experiment, the investigators devised a formula showing that the more quantum bits,
or qubits – in this case, photons – one starts with, the better the
reproduction; the larger the system, the greater the accuracy of the cloning process.
The researchers are optimistic that their findings could have
“I have a great deal of hope that this will be a step in
going even further toward using fundamental quantum principles in technology development,”
Sanguinetti said. “Our device can already be used to calibrate light sources
“From a theoretical point of view, the most exciting aspect
of this experiment is that it ties a measurement of light intensity directly to
a fundamental law of quantum physics: the ‘no cloning theorem.’ ”
- Electromagnetic radiation detectable by the eye, ranging in wavelength from about 400 to 750 nm. In photonic applications light can be considered to cover the nonvisible portion of the spectrum which includes the ultraviolet and the infrared.
- The science of measurement, particularly of lengths and angles.
- optical fiber
- A thin filament of drawn or extruded glass or plastic having a central core and a cladding of lower index material to promote total internal reflection (TIR). It may be used singly to transmit pulsed optical signals (communications fiber) or in bundles to transmit light or images.
- With respect to light radiation, the restriction of the vibrations of the magnetic or electric field vector to a single plane. In a beam of electromagnetic radiation, the polarization direction is the direction of the electric field vector (with no distinction between positive and negative as the field oscillates back and forth). The polarization vector is always in the plane at right angles to the beam direction. Near some given stationary point in space the polarization direction in the beam...
- Smallest amount into which the energy of a wave can be divided. The quantum is proportional to the frequency of the wave. See photon.
- The science of radiation measurement. The detection and measurement of radiant energy, either as separate wavelengths or integrated over a broad wavelength band, and the interaction of radiation with matter in such ways as absorption, reflectance and emission.
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