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Nanophotonic Simulator Performs Computations at the Quantum Level

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Researchers at the University of Rochester (UR) have developed a photonics-based quantum simulation system that simulates physical phenomena at the quantum level. The nanophotonic quantum simulator performs chip-scale simulations in a quantum-correlated synthetic space by controlling the frequency of quantum-entangled photons over time.

An efficient simulator for quantum systems is one of the original goals of quantum computing. Synthetic dimensions in photonics present a powerful approach for simulation that is free from the constraints of geometric dimensionality.

The UR simulator could provide scientists with a better understanding of complex natural phenomena that cannot be simulated on classical, high-performance computing systems. Specifically, the system could make quantum simulation feasible for exploring physical systems in a synthetic space that mimics the physical world.

The researchers created a quantum-correlated synthetic crystal using a chip-scale, dynamically modulated microresonator and a coherently controlled, broadband quantum frequency comb. The time-frequency entanglement of the comb modes extended the dimensionality of the synthetic space, forming a large synthetic lattice with electrically controlled tunability.
A system developed by researchers at the University of Rochester allows them to conduct quantum simulations in a synthetic space that mimics the physical world by controlling the frequency of quantum-entangled photons as time elapses. Courtesy of the University of Rochester/Michael Osadciw.
A system developed by researchers at the University of Rochester allows them to conduct quantum simulations in a synthetic space that mimics the physical world by controlling the frequency of quantum-entangled photons as time elapses. Courtesy of the University of Rochester/Michael Osadciw.
According to the researchers, the crystal combines the high dimensionality of a quantum-correlated synthetic space with the simplicity of monolithic nanophotonic architecture, as well as the coherent control of an on-chip system. Lead researcher Qiang Lin said that the approach significantly extends the dimensions of the synthetic space, which enables the researchers to perform simulations of several quantum-scale phenomena.

The researchers’ approach differs from traditional photonics-based computing methods, in which the paths of photons are controlled. It also reduces the physical footprint and the resources required for simulating physical phenomena at the quantum level.

The researchers used the evolution of quantum correlations between entangled photons to perform a series of simulations with the quantum simulator. They demonstrated Bloch oscillations and multilevel Rabi oscillations, in addition to quantum random walks, in the time and frequency correlation space.

Researcher Usman Javid said that the systems the group is currently simulating are well understood. Still, he said, the proof-of-principle experiment demonstrates the power of the approach for scaling up to more complex simulations and computation tasks.

The research was published in Nature Photonics (

Published: July 2023
The term quantum refers to the fundamental unit or discrete amount of a physical quantity involved in interactions at the atomic and subatomic scales. It originates from quantum theory, a branch of physics that emerged in the early 20th century to explain phenomena observed on very small scales, where classical physics fails to provide accurate explanations. In the context of quantum theory, several key concepts are associated with the term quantum: Quantum mechanics: This is the branch of...
quantum entanglement
Quantum entanglement is a phenomenon in quantum mechanics where two or more particles become correlated to such an extent that the state of one particle instantly influences the state of the other(s), regardless of the distance separating them. This means that the properties of each particle, such as position, momentum, spin, or polarization, are interdependent in a way that classical physics cannot explain. When particles become entangled, their individual quantum states become inseparable,...
Nanophotonics is a branch of science and technology that explores the behavior of light on the nanometer scale, typically at dimensions smaller than the wavelength of light. It involves the study and manipulation of light using nanoscale structures and materials, often at dimensions comparable to or smaller than the wavelength of the light being manipulated. Aspects and applications of nanophotonics include: Nanoscale optical components: Nanophotonics involves the design and fabrication of...
An SI prefix meaning one billionth (10-9). Nano can also be used to indicate the study of atoms, molecules and other structures and particles on the nanometer scale. Nano-optics (also referred to as nanophotonics), for example, is the study of how light and light-matter interactions behave on the nanometer scale. See nanophotonics.
integrated photonics
Integrated photonics is a field of study and technology that involves the integration of optical components, such as lasers, modulators, detectors, and waveguides, on a single chip or substrate. The goal of integrated photonics is to miniaturize and consolidate optical elements in a manner similar to the integration of electronic components on a microchip in traditional integrated circuits. Key aspects of integrated photonics include: Miniaturization: Integrated photonics aims to...
integrated optics
A thin-film device containing miniature optical components connected via optical waveguides on a transparent dielectric substrate, whose lenses, detectors, filters, couplers and so forth perform operations analogous to those of integrated electronic circuits for switching, communications and logic.
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