Near-Perfect Entangled Photons Generated from Quantum Dot Sources

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WATERLOO, Ontario, March 28, 2024 — Researchers at the University of Waterloo's Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) have developed a method to efficiently produce nearly perfect entangled photon pairs from quantum dot sources, paving the way for secure quantum communications.

“The combination of a high degree of entanglement and high efficiency is needed for exciting applications such as quantum key distribution or quantum repeaters, which are envisioned to extend the distance of secure quantum communication to a global scale or link remote quantum computers,” said Michael Reimer, professor at IQC and Waterloo's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “Previous experiments only measured either near-perfect entanglement or high efficiency, but we're the first to achieve both requirements with a quantum dot.”
The entangled photon source, an indium-based quantum dot embedded in a semiconductor nanowire (left), and a visualization of how the entangled photons are efficiently extracted from the nanowire. Courtesy of the University of Waterloo.
The entangled photon source, an indium-based quantum dot embedded in a semiconductor nanowire (left), and a visualization of how the entangled photons are efficiently extracted from the nanowire (right). Courtesy of the University of Waterloo.

By embedding semiconductor quantum dots into a nanowire, the researchers created a source that creates near-perfect entangled photons 65 times more efficiently than previous work. This new source, developed in collaboration with the National Research Council of Canada in Ottawa, can be excited with lasers to generate entangled pairs on command. The researchers then used high-resolution single photon detectors provided by Single Quantum in the Netherlands to boost the degree of entanglement.

“Historically, quantum dot systems were plagued with a problem called fine structure splitting, which causes an entangled state to oscillate over time,” said Matteo Pennacchietti, a PhD student at IQC and Waterloo's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. As a result, slow detection systems could not measure the entanglement.

The team overcame this by combining their quantum dots with a fast and precise detection system. “We can basically take a timestamp of what the entangled state looks like at each point during the oscillations, and that's where we have the perfect entanglement,” Pennacchietti said.

To showcase future communications applications, Reimer and Pennacchietti worked with IQC professors Norbert Lütkenhaus and Thomas Jennewein and their teams. The group was able to simulate quantum key distribution (QKD), by using the generated oscillating two-photon Bell state to establish a secure key for QKD.

The team believes that the developed quantum dot source holds significant promise in the future of secure quantum communications. The researchers expect their findings to lay the foundation for creating large arrays of deterministically positioned quantum dot sources for QKD networks.

The research was published in Communications Physics (

Published: March 2024
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 dots
A quantum dot is a nanoscale semiconductor structure, typically composed of materials like cadmium selenide or indium arsenide, that exhibits unique quantum mechanical properties. These properties arise from the confinement of electrons within the dot, leading to discrete energy levels, or "quantization" of energy, similar to the behavior of individual atoms or molecules. Quantum dots have a size on the order of a few nanometers and can emit or absorb photons (light) with precise wavelengths,...
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
quantum key distribution
Quantum key distribution (QKD) is a method of secure communication that utilizes principles from quantum mechanics to establish a shared secret key between two parties, typically referred to as Alice and Bob, while detecting any potential eavesdropping attempts by a third party, commonly known as Eve. The fundamental principle behind QKD is the use of quantum properties, such as the superposition principle and the no-cloning theorem, to enable the distribution of cryptographic keys in a...
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