LSU Physicist Designs Tool to Decode Light Particles

Dr. Omar Magana-Loaiza


A Louisiana State University physicist has discovered an important step in the field of quantum communications by developing a tool that can extract large amounts of information encoded on photons, or particles of light.

In a recent paper published by Optica, a high-impact scientific journal, Omar Magana-Loaiza, an assistant physics professor, details his research on quantum photonic technologies by measuring properties of telecom photon pairs formed by spontaneous parametric down-conversion — when a single high-energy photon splits into a pair of photons with half the initial energy. This is a key resource for quantum photonic technologies such as quantum metrology and quantum optical information processing.

“We’re getting close to an era where our information is protected by the laws of nature, and in this case, by something as small as a photon. It’s a new world of technologies,” said Magana-Loaiza.

Just last year, Chinese scientists managed to beam the quantum state of entangled photons into orbit. This paved the way for quantum information processing across massive distances, but Magana-Loaiza’s research introduces a new tool that enables ways to unscramble large amounts of information encoded on those photons using only a small fraction of measurements with respect to current protocols.

The physicist has been working alongside colleagues at the National Institute for Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colo., and Paderborn University in Germany to develop an alternative to a nonexistent telecom single-photon camera with ultra-high spatial and timing resolutions.

“We don’t know what we’re doing in the dark, but if we want to build a free-space telecom (quantum) network, we can actually see what we’re doing by using our device. We can align or adjust as needed,” Magana-Loaiza explained.

Essentially this tool Magana-Loaiza and his collaborators created can be likened to a super-fast camera with ultra-high definition.

A high-quality traditional camera can manage about 250 frames per second, but the device developed by the group can handle billions of frames in a single second, capturing the details needed to properly track and efficiently read information encoded in light particles.

“The dramatic reduction in the number of measurements required to characterize information encoded in telecom photon pairs makes our technique a powerful diagnosis tool for quantum protocols such as quantum metrology and quantum communication,” Magana-Loaiza said.