Applications of PCF in quantum optics

The Division has been collaborating with several groups on various aspects of quantum light-matter interactions. These include bright twin beams and triplet generation with the group of Dr Maria Chekhova at MPL, Rydberg atoms in hollow core PCF with Dr Robert Löw at the University of Stuttgart and single-photon memories in cæsium-vapour-filled HC-PCF [Sprague (2014)] with Professor Ian Walmsley at the University of Oxford.

Twin beams from noble-gas-filled hollow-core PCF

Correlated photons and twin beams are an essential resource for experiments in quantum optics. However, the number of available sources is very limited and the work-horse in the field is still parametric down-conversion in a nonlinear crystal. In this project, we exploit the unique properties of gas-filled kagomé-style PCF to generate photon-number-correlated twin beams. The nonlinear element used is the monatomic gas argon, so as to avoid Raman scattering. In this way the source overcomes a major problem in solid-core fibre-based sources: degradation due to Raman noise. Additionally, gas-filled kagomé-PCF offers the unique capability of tuning the dispersion landscape, making it possible to pressure-tune the wavelength of the generated signal and idler beams. We have observed up to 35% twin-beam squeezing below the shot-noise limit, together with a remarkable brightness of 2500 photons per spatiotemporal mode [Finger (2015)]

Reconstruction of the time-frequency Schmidt mode structure from a covariance measurement. (a) Spectral covariance. (b) Schmidt eigenvalues for two sets of parameters. K is the effective number of modes and can be tuned with the pump pulse chirp, gas pressure, fibre length and pump spectrum. (c), (d) Shapes of first three signal and idler modes.

Towards triplet generation using PCF

Nonclassical states of light are important tools for quantum technologies and the main instrument for quantum communications. In this project we aim to generate three-photon states (triplets) using the Kerr effect. Generation of triplet states by spontaneous decay has not yet been demonstrated and will open up striking possibilities, for example, heralding the arrival of pair-photons. Generation of triplets can be viewed as the reverse of third harmonic generation, requiring a similar phase-matching condition. However, it is linearly dependent on the input power so that increasing the length of the nonlinear medium is important. This makes optical fibre very attractive, although chromatic dispersion prevents phase-matching between pump and signal within the LP01 mode. As a result it is necessary for the third harmonic pump to be in a higher-order mode, which is impractical and yields a poor overlap. We have designed a fibre in which the short wavelength is guided by an all-solid bandgap structure, while the long wavelength is guided by total internal reflection. It consisted of a periodic arrangement of high-refractive index Schott lead-silicate SF6 glass rods (index 1.76 in the IR) embedded in a host with lower refractive index (Schott LLF1, index 1.54), the central core being made from LLF1 glass. The structure supported phase-matched third harmonic generation between the fundamental mode at 1512 nm and a single-lobed mode of the bandgap structure at 504 nm [Cavanna (2016)] with a conversion efficiency of ~0.02% for 12.5 µW average pump power (pulse duration 20 ps and repetition rate 1 kHz). 

(a) Hybrid microstructured PCF made of SF6 (grey) and LLF1 (white) glass (b) phase matching condition between fundamental mode of the structure at 1512 nm and fundamental bandgap mode at 504 nm (c) experiment spectrum of the pump and third harmonic. Mode profiles are given in inset.

Rydberg atoms in HC-PCF

Highly excited Rydberg atoms display exceptionally large polarisability and are not only very sensitive to electric fields, but can also undergo long-range interactions with other Rydberg atoms. This makes them of great interest as sensitive electric field sensors or for optical nonlinearities down to the single photon level. We have introduced a thermal vapour of caesium into a hollow core kagomé-PCF and used light-induced atomic desorption (LIAD) to modulate the atom density over several orders of magnitude. After coupling an intense light beam into the fibre, atoms previously adsorbed onto the core walls are released and added to the vapour density. No cryogenic set-up (typically a magneto-optical trap) is required, raising the possibility of a fully fibre-based system. A broad-band guiding kagomé-style hollow-core PCF was used. After demonstrating the feasibility of the system we focused on understanding certain unexpected energy shifts in Rydberg states, which we attribute to surface charges on the core walls [Epple (2014)]. In parallel we have actively modulated the Rydberg states using an external electric field, permitting active switching of atoms in and out resonance by Stark shifting their energy levels, and sideband modulation [Veit (2016)].

(a) Excitation scheme and schematic of Rydberg excitation from a caesium vapour in HC-PCF. (b) Measuring Rydberg level Stark shifts spatially resolved by exploiting higher order optical modes to investigate surface effects (c) Active modulation of Rydberg resonances and side band modulation by applying a high frequency electric fields at the fibre position.