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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/J015857/1
Title: Hollow-core fibre based quantum optical light-atom interface
Principal Investigator: Fernholz, Dr T
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Sch of Physics & Astronomy
Organisation: University of Nottingham
Scheme: First Grant - Revised 2009
Starts: 31 October 2012 Ends: 30 April 2014 Value (£): 100,044
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Cold Atomic Species Quantum Optics & Information
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
09 Feb 2012 EPSRC Physical Sciences Physics - February Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Since their discovery, about a century ago, the physical laws of quantum mechanics have puzzled researchers and attracted widespread interest. In particular, the philosophical implications for the meaning of reality and objectivity have raised lasting debates. The bone of contention being the concept of entanglement, where two distant objects, upon the act of measurement, appear to agree on random measurement outcomes, although no physical reality could be ascribed to their properties before the measurement and although any communication between them is ruled out by the theory of relativity.

In modern days, immense progress has been made in this area, and beyond the vast amount of devices and applications such as lasers and superfluidity, the pure quantum properties of photons and even individual atoms can now be controlled with unprecedented precision. While such a high level of control was first achieved in quantum optics, i.e. the physics of light, the advent of laser cooling enabled physicists also to engineer new quantum states of matter. These research fields were recognized by the award of Physics Nobel prizes in 1997, 2001 and 2005.

The field became a spectacular topic of interest when potential applications of entanglement for quantum computing and cryptography were discovered. Devices working with quantum units of information, or qubits, could efficiently solve certain computational problems, simulate quantum dynamics, and provide a means for completely secure communication.

An important ingredient for future quantum networks, i.e., linked nodes that are capable of controlling quantum states, will be the ability to interface light and matter. While photons can be easily transported but are very volatile in their very nature, quantum states of matter can be kept, controlled, and designed to interact with each other. A set of small, easily controllable quantum machines can become more powerful by interconnection. The problem of long-distance quantum communication might serve as the prime example. While basic quantum communication devices are already commercially available, current technology is limited to distances of about 150 km due to the noise that is inevitably introduced in any sort of quantum channel. Overcoming this limit will become technically feasible only with nodes that are capable of storing and preserving the transmitted quantum information and performing quantum operations on it. Hence, there is a strong interest in developing light-matter interfaces that fulfil these tasks.

Such interfaces also find other applications. The transfer of well-controlled optical states onto matter can serve for precision measurements such as magnetometry, atomic clocks, and spectroscopy. At the same time, new states of light can be engineered or detected, and applications include squeezed light, single photons, frequency conversion, and efficient or even non-destructive photon counting, where the intensity of light can be precisely measured without absorbing it. All of these are much sought-after resources for a range of quantum optical applications.

The aim of this project is to design and build a fibre optical light-atom interface. By incorporating techniques from cold-atom physics, we want to build a system based on a micro-fabricated chip with integrated hollow-core photonic crystal fibres. With the help of the chip we will magnetically confine laser cooled, ultracold atoms in the 6 micron sized empty core of these light guiding fibres and let them interact with the light field. This system will allow us to explore new parameter regimes and can become the first demonstration of a long-lived (seconds) quantum memory with very fast switching times. The natural compatibility of the proposed implementation with fibre optical communication will bring quantum communication devices closer to a "real world" implementation.

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Organisation Website: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk