Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors



Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

Home > Press > Quantum Photon Properties Revealed in Another Particle—the Plasmon

An artist's representation of a plasmonic waveguide.
Credit: Jim Fakonas/Caltech
An artist's representation of a plasmonic waveguide.

Credit: Jim Fakonas/Caltech

Abstract:
For years, researchers have been interested in developing quantum computers—the theoretical next generation of technology that will outperform conventional computers. Instead of holding data in bits, the digital units used by computers today, quantum computers store information in units called "qubits." One approach for computing with qubits relies on the creation of two single photons that interfere with one another in a device called a waveguide. Results from a recent applied science study at Caltech support the idea that waveguides coupled with another quantum particle—the surface plasmon—could also become an important piece of the quantum computing puzzle.

Quantum Photon Properties Revealed in Another Particle—the Plasmon

Pasadena, CA | Posted on April 5th, 2014

The work was published in the print version of the journal Nature Photonics the week of March 31.

As their name suggests, surface plasmons exist on a surface—in this case the surface of a metal, at the point where the metal meets the air. Metals are conductive materials, which means that electrons within the metal are free to move around. On the surface of the metal, these free electrons move together, in a collective motion, creating waves of electrons. Plasmons—the quantum particles of these coordinated waves—are akin to photons, the quantum particles of light (and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation).

"If you imagine the surface of a metal is like a sea of electrons, then surface plasmons are the ripples or waves on this sea," says graduate student Jim Fakonas, first author on the study.

These waves are especially interesting because they oscillate at optical frequencies. Therefore, if you shine a light at the metal surface, you can launch one of these plasmon waves, pushing the ripples of electrons across the surface of the metal. Because these plasmons directly couple with light, researchers have used them in photovoltaic cells and other applications for solar energy. In the future, they may also hold promise for applications in quantum computing.

However, the plasmon's odd behavior, which falls somewhere between that of an electron and that of a photon, makes it difficult to characterize. "According to quantum theory, it should be possible to analyze these plasmonic waves using quantum mechanics"—the physics that governs the behavior of matter and light at the atomic and subatomic scale—"in the same way that we can use it to study electromagnetic waves, like light," Fakonas says. However, in the past, researchers were lacking the experimental evidence to support this theory.

To find that evidence, Fakonas and his colleagues in the laboratory of Harry Atwater, Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, looked at one particular phenomenon observed of photons—quantum interference—to see if plasmons also exhibit this effect.

The applied scientists borrowed their experimental technique from a classic test of quantum interference in which two single, identical photons are launched at one another through opposite sides of a 50/50 beam splitter, a device that acts as an imperfect mirror, reflecting half of the light that reaches its surface while allowing the other half of the light to pass through. If quantum interference is observed, both identical photons must emerge together on the same side of the beam splitter, with their presence confirmed by photon detectors on both sides of the mirror.

Since plasmons are not exactly like photons, they cannot be used in mirrored optical beam splitters. Therefore, to test for quantum interference in plasmons, Fakonas and his colleagues made two waveguide paths for the plasmons on the surface of a tiny silicon chip. Because plasmons are very lossy—that is, easily absorbed into materials that surround them—the path is kept short, contained within a 10-micron-square chip, which reduces absorption along the way.

The waveguides, which together form a device called a directional coupler, act as a functional equivalent to a 50/50 beam splitter, directing the paths of the two plasmons to interfere with one another. The plasmons can exit the waveguides at one of two output paths that are each observed by a detector; if both plasmons exit the directional coupler together—meaning that quantum interference is observed—the pair of plasmons will only set off one of the two detectors.

Indeed, the experiment confirmed that two indistinguishable photons can be converted into two indistinguishable surface plasmons that, like photons, display quantum interference.

This finding could be important for the development of quantum computing, says Atwater. "Remarkably, plasmons are coherent enough to exhibit quantum interference in waveguides," he says. "These plasmon waveguides can be integrated in compact chip-based devices and circuits, which may one day enable computation and measurement schemes based on quantum interference."

Before this experiment, some researchers wondered if the photon-metal interaction necessary to create a surface plasmon would prevent the plasmons from exhibiting quantum interference. "Our experiment shows this is not a concern," Fakonas says.

"We learned something new about the quantum mechanics of surface plasmons. The main thing is that we were able to validate the theoretical prediction; we showed that this type of interference is possible with plasmons, and we did a pretty clean measurement," he says. "The quantum interference displayed by plasmons appeared to be almost identical to that of photons, so I think it would be very difficult for someone to design a different structure that would improve upon this result."

The work was published in a paper titled "Two-plasmon quantum interference." In addition to Fakonas and Atwater, the other coauthors are Caltech undergraduate Hyunseok Lee and former undergraduate Yousif A. Kelaita (BS '12). The work was supported by funding from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the waveguide was fabricated at the Kavli Nanoscience Institute at Caltech.

Written by Jessica Stoller-Conrad

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Crystal Dilworth
626-395-3226

Copyright © Caltech

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related Links

Download paper:

Related News Press

News and information

Ad-REIC vaccine: A magic bullet for cancer treatment September 30th, 2014

New Topical Hemostatic Agent: Neutral Self-Assembling Peptide Hydrogel September 30th, 2014

Chemical interactions between silver nanoparticles and thiols: A comparison of mercaptohexanol again September 30th, 2014

A Heartbeat Away? Hybrid "Patch" Could Replace Transplants: TAU researcher harnesses gold nanoparticles to engineer novel biocompatible cardiac patch September 30th, 2014

Physics

Brookhaven Lab's National Synchrotron Light Source II Approved to Start Routine Operations: Milestone marks transition to exciting new chapter September 23rd, 2014

Toward optical chips: A promising light source for optoelectronic chips can be tuned to different frequencies September 19th, 2014

Elusive Quantum Transformations Found Near Absolute Zero: Brookhaven Lab and Stony Brook University researchers measured the quantum fluctuations behind a novel magnetic material's ultra-cold ferromagnetic phase transition September 15th, 2014

Excitonic Dark States Shed Light on TMDC Atomic Layers: Berkeley Lab Discovery Holds Promise for Nanoelectronic and Photonic Applications September 11th, 2014

Discoveries

Ad-REIC vaccine: A magic bullet for cancer treatment September 30th, 2014

New Topical Hemostatic Agent: Neutral Self-Assembling Peptide Hydrogel September 30th, 2014

Chemical interactions between silver nanoparticles and thiols: A comparison of mercaptohexanol again September 30th, 2014

A Heartbeat Away? Hybrid "Patch" Could Replace Transplants: TAU researcher harnesses gold nanoparticles to engineer novel biocompatible cardiac patch September 30th, 2014

Announcements

Ad-REIC vaccine: A magic bullet for cancer treatment September 30th, 2014

New Topical Hemostatic Agent: Neutral Self-Assembling Peptide Hydrogel September 30th, 2014

Chemical interactions between silver nanoparticles and thiols: A comparison of mercaptohexanol again September 30th, 2014

A Heartbeat Away? Hybrid "Patch" Could Replace Transplants: TAU researcher harnesses gold nanoparticles to engineer novel biocompatible cardiac patch September 30th, 2014

Interviews/Book Reviews/Essays/Reports/Podcasts/Journals

Ad-REIC vaccine: A magic bullet for cancer treatment September 30th, 2014

New Topical Hemostatic Agent: Neutral Self-Assembling Peptide Hydrogel September 30th, 2014

Chemical interactions between silver nanoparticles and thiols: A comparison of mercaptohexanol again September 30th, 2014

A Heartbeat Away? Hybrid "Patch" Could Replace Transplants: TAU researcher harnesses gold nanoparticles to engineer novel biocompatible cardiac patch September 30th, 2014

Photonics/Optics/Lasers

'Pixel' engineered electronics have growth potential: Rice, Oak Ridge, Vanderbilt, Penn scientists lead creation of atom-scale semiconducting composites September 29th, 2014

Southampton scientists grow a new challenger to graphene September 23rd, 2014

Engineers show light can play seesaw at the nanoscale: Discovery is another step toward faster and more energy-efficient optical devices for computation and communication September 22nd, 2014

Twisted graphene chills out: When two sheets of graphene are stacked in a special way, it is possible to cool down the graphene with a laser instead of heating it up, University of Manchester researchers have shown September 22nd, 2014

Quantum nanoscience

Big Results Require Big Ambitions: Three young UCSB faculty receive CAREER awards from the National Science Foundation September 18th, 2014

Elusive Quantum Transformations Found Near Absolute Zero: Brookhaven Lab and Stony Brook University researchers measured the quantum fluctuations behind a novel magnetic material's ultra-cold ferromagnetic phase transition September 15th, 2014

Layered graphene sandwich for next generation electronics September 8th, 2014

Cool Calculations for Cold Atoms: New theory of universal three-body encounters September 2nd, 2014

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More














ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







© Copyright 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE