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Advances in Entangled Photon Sources: Enabling Secure Quantum Communication, Computation, and High-Precision Sensing

Quantum entanglement is a physical phenomenon that occurs when two or more particles are linked together in such a way that they share the same fate, no matter how far apart they are. This means that if you measure the state of one particle, you will instantly know the state of the other particle, even if they are on opposite sides of the universe.

Entanglement links the strange states of tiny quantum mechanical objects. For example, a top can spin either clockwise or counterclockwise, but an atom can spin both ways at once—at least until it is measured and that two-way state collapses one way or the other. Two atoms can be entangled so that each is in an uncertain two-way state, but their spins are definitely correlated, say, in opposite directions. So if physicists measure the first atom and find it spinning clockwise, they know instantly the other one must be spinning counterclockwise, no matter how far away it is.

Quantum entanglement is one of the strangest and most counterintuitive phenomena in quantum mechanics. It has been used to create quantum computers, which could one day be used to solve problems that are impossible for classical computers. Quantum entanglement is also being explored as a way to develop new forms of communication and cryptography that are unbreakable.

Today, entanglement is actively being explored as a resource for future technologies including quantum computers, quantum communication networks and high-precision quantum sensors. Particle entanglement is a prerequisite for the quantum revolution that is on the horizon, which will also affect the volumes of data circulating on the networks of the future together with the power and operating mode of quantum computers.  Entanglement takes place when a part of particles interacts physically. For instance, a laser beam fired through a certain type of crystal can cause individual light particles to be split into pairs of entangled photons.


The use of entangled photons for quantum cryptography was proposed by Arthur Ekert in 19916. Ekert’s protocol, known as E91, includes a photon pair entangled in polarization with paths split so one photon is received by Alice and the other by Bob. To ensure a secure connection is present, a Bell’s theorem is performed to check for eavesdroppers. This protocol was first implemented in by Kwiat et al. in 19995 . This experiment showed the viability of Ekert’s protocol as well as an exploration of potential eavesdropping strategies.


Entanglement would be key to a fully quantum internet that would let quantum computers of the future communicate with one another and be immune to hacking. If hackers messed with communication, they would spoil the entanglement, revealing their presence. Various companies already sell systems that send messages in quantum states of light that are largely unhackable. But to use such links, the information must still be decoded at each network node, which is potentially vulnerable. In a quantum internet, any node could be entangled with any other, so messages between them couldn’t be decoded at intermediate nodes.


The concept of entanglement can also be applied to photons, leading to applications in secure quantum communication,  quantum computation and high-precision sensor technology. In order to bring these technologies into application, compact and efficient sources of entangled photon pairs are needed to transmit and manipulate information and  that can be integrated into photonic circuits. Entangled photon pairs are important for the realization of quantum communication


The realization of next generation envisaged projects towards the implementation of world-wide quantum network through the ground to satellite and or inter-satellite links require development of compact and robust entangled photon sources with high brightness and entanglement visibility. Over decades, a variety of schemes have been proposed and implemented for entangled photons, however, the polarization entangled photon sources realized through the spontaneous parametric down-conversion (SPDC)in second order, (χ2),bulk nonlinear crystals remains the most appropriate choice.



One of the key challenges in using quantum entanglement is generating entangled photons.

Entangled photons are photons that are created in a state of entanglement. This can be done using a variety of methods, but one of the most common methods is spontaneous parametric downconversion.

SPDC is a process in which a high-energy photon, known as the pump photon, is converted into two lower-energy photons, called signal and idler photons. The photons are typically entangled, meaning that their states are correlated in such a way that they cannot be described independently. This property makes them useful for quantum communication and computation because any attempt to intercept or measure them will change their state, alerting the receiver to the presence of eavesdropping.

While there have been other methods proposed for generating entangled photons, such as four-wave mixing, they tend to be less efficient and produce lower-quality entanglement than SPDC. Therefore, researchers have focused on improving the performance of SPDC-based entangled photon sources. One way to do this is to use χ2 nonlinear crystals, which are more efficient at converting pump photons into signal and idler photons than other types of nonlinear crystals.

Additionally, researchers are working on developing compact and robust sources that can be integrated into existing communication and computing systems. This is particularly important for the development of a global quantum network, which requires entangled photon sources that can be deployed in a range of environments and operate reliably over long periods of time.

Overall, advances in entangled photon sources have the potential to revolutionize secure communication, computation, and sensing. As researchers continue to develop new and improved sources, we may see the widespread implementation of quantum technologies in the near future.

For deeper understanding of Entangled photon sources and applications please visit: Entangled Photon Sources: From Theory to Application

Parametric Down conversion

Parametric down conversion is a process used to generate entangled photon pairs in which a pump laser is directed at a material with optical nonlinearity. The process produces two photons that are correlated in their properties, such as energy and momentum. The pump laser is directed at a crystal, and the resulting photons are created simultaneously and travel in correlated directions. One of the photons can be detected to produce a source rich in time-tagged single photons.

One of the problems with this source is the unpredictability of the emission times of the photon pairs. The process occurs with small probability inside a few optical materials with nonlinear optical susceptibilities such as KDP, LiIO3, and BBO. The photon pair generation events are associated with vacuum fluctuations and contain contributions from multi-pair events. The probabilities of single- and multi-pair events are both related to the mean number of pairs created per pump pulse, and they increase with μ. The sources are usually operated in the μ<<1 regime to minimize the multi-photon noise.

To improve the brightness of the entangled photon sources, different nonlinear crystals have been used in bulk and waveguide structures, in different phase-matching geometries including type-I, type-II and type-0, and different experimental schemes. The length and nonlinearity of the crystal are two important parameters that highly influence the gain of the SPDC process for a given pump laser. Therefore, the brightness of the entangled photon sources has been significantly improved over the years through the use of long periodically poled crystals engineered for high effective nonlinearity.

The development of compact and robust entangled photon sources with high brightness and entanglement visibility is critical for realizing the next generation of projects towards the implementation of a worldwide quantum network through ground to satellite and/or inter-satellite links. Among the various schemes proposed and implemented for entangled photons, the polarization entangled photon sources realized through the SPDC in second order, (χ2), bulk nonlinear crystals remains the most appropriate choice.


Recent Breakthroughs

There have been a number of recent breakthroughs in entangled photon sources. These breakthroughs have made it possible to generate entangled photons with higher quality, at higher rates, and in more compact form factors.

One of the most significant breakthroughs was the development of on-chip entangled photon sources. On-chip sources are much smaller and more efficient than traditional sources, which makes them ideal for integration into quantum devices.

Another significant breakthrough was the development of high-quality entangled photons at telecom wavelengths. Telecom wavelengths are the wavelengths that are used in optical fiber communication networks. This means that entangled photons can now be used to develop quantum communication networks that are secure from eavesdropping.

In 2020, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley developed a compact on-chip source of entangled photons that is compatible with silicon photonics. The source is based on a silicon-vacancy defect in silicon and is capable of generating high-quality entangled photons at telecom wavelengths.


Scientists create entangled photons 100 times more efficiently than previously possible reported in Dec 2020

Researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology have developed a chip-based photon source that’s 100 times more efficient than previous devices, allowing for the creation of tens of millions of entangled photon pairs per second from a single microwatt-powered laser beam.


By carving high-quality microcavities into lithium niobate crystal flakes, the researchers were able to create an unprecedentedly bright source of entangled photon pairs, reducing the energy needed to power quantum components. The racetrack-shaped cavities internally reflect photons with very little loss of energy, enabling light to circulate longer and interact with greater efficiency. The team plans to continue refining their technology, seeking ways to use their photon source to drive logic gates and other quantum computing or communication components.


The technology has the potential to significantly reduce the energy needed to power quantum components and could make quantum devices more efficient and cheap to operate. The researchers are already working on refining the process to create a system that can turn a single incoming photon into an entangled pair of outgoing photons, with virtually no waste energy. Ultimately, the goal is to integrate quantum devices into mainstream electronic devices to benefit everyone. “Someday soon we want kids to have quantum laptops in their backpacks, and we’re pushing hard to make that a reality.”


Compact On-chip Photon Pair Sources for Quantum Technologies reported in March 2021

In March 2021, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics IAF reported the development of a compact on-chip photon pair source for quantum technologies. The source is based on aluminum gallium arsenide (AlGaAs) Bragg reflection waveguides and is capable of generating high-quality entangled photon pairs at telecom wavelengths.

The main components of quantum photonic systems, such as mirrors, beam splitter and phase shifters, can all be realized in integrated form by now. However, this does not yet apply to the light sources and detectors that are required as well. “Our goal is now to integrate all the functions needed for quantum communication, i.e. the generation, manipulation and detection of single and entangled photons, into just one chip,” explains Dr. Thorsten Passow, project manager at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics IAF.

The semiconductor material AlGaAs is a promising material for photon pair sources for several reasons. For example, it has nonlinear properties. In a material with nonlinear properties, a photon can spontaneously split into two photons at high light intensity due to an optical effect. Such light particle pairs can be quantum mechanically entangled.

One of the key components required is a light source, which in this project is realized using AlGaAs Bragg reflection waveguides. The unique feature of this technology is its potential to integrate a pump laser diode, which enables a particularly compact design. The project focuses on the accuracy of the epitaxy of AlGaAs-based Bragg reflection waveguides to generate entangled photons with precisely tuned wavelengths required for telecommunications.



“A chip-scale source of entangled photons” from Nature Photonics

Researchers at the Institute of Photonics at the Leibniz University Hannover (LUH) have developed a new chip-scale source of entangled photons. The chip is smaller than a one euro coin and can generate up to 8,200 pairs of entangled photons per second.

The chip is made of two different materials: indium phosphide and silicon nitride. The indium phosphide section of the chip generates laser light, while the silicon nitride section of the chip filters out noise and generates the entangled photons.

The entangled photons are created by a process called spontaneous parametric downconversion. In this process, a single photon of high energy is converted into two photons of lower energy. The two photons are entangled, which means that they share the same quantum state.

The entangled photons can be used for a variety of applications, including quantum computing, quantum communication, and quantum sensing. Quantum computing uses entangled photons to perform calculations that are impossible for classical computers. Quantum communication uses entangled photons to send information that is secure from eavesdroppers. Quantum sensing uses entangled photons to measure objects with unprecedented precision.

The development of a chip-scale source of entangled photons is a significant step forward for the development of quantum technologies. The small size of the chip makes it easy to integrate with other components, which could lead to the development of new and more powerful quantum devices.

The researchers say that the ability to shrink the size of a quantum light source by a factor of 1,000 could help to bring the technology out of the lab and make it easier to deploy in the real world. As well as more obvious uses in quantum computing and quantum networking, Kues says the compact form factor could also prove useful for some quantum sensing applications.




Overall, entangled photon sources are a critical technology for the future of quantum communication, computation, and sensing. With recent advances in photonic chip technology, we are getting closer to realizing the potential of this technology and unlocking its many benefits.


The advances in entangled photon sources have opened up a new world of possibilities for quantum technologies. These technologies have the potential to revolutionize a wide range of fields, including communication, computing, and sensing.




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