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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/V002902/1
Title: Stoichiometric rare-earth crystals for novel integrated quantum memories
Principal Investigator: Mazzera, Dr M
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Institut Neel/CNRS National Research Council (CNR) Italy University of Verona
Department: Sch of Engineering and Physical Science
Organisation: Heriot-Watt University
Scheme: New Investigator Award
Starts: 01 April 2021 Ends: 30 September 2024 Value (£): 379,192
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Light-Matter Interactions Quantum Optics & Information
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Manufacturing R&D
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
22 Jul 2020 EPSRC Physical Sciences - July 2020 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Quantum information science is the field of research that studies the information present in a quantum system. A number of new technological applications can be envisaged thanks to exquisitely quantum phenomena. While classical information encoding relies on bits, which can be either 0s and 1s, the quantum bits (or qubits) are associated to the state of quantum objects, e.g. single atoms, single spins, or single photons. Because of the quantum superposition principle, the qubits can then be 0s, 1s, or coherent superposition of both, thus giving access to an exceptionally richer alphabet. Quantum information science also exploits quantum entanglement, i.e. strong correlation between quantum objects, as a resource for fast and secure quantum communication protocols.

In view of realising networks for quantum communication, quantum memories are fundamental devices as they act as interfaces between the photons, used as information carriers, and atoms, exploited for information storage and processing. To be useful in quantum networks, the quantum memories must fulfil specific requirements, as on-demand read-out, high efficiency and fidelity, long storage time, and multimodality. While atomic gases enabled the first remarkable quantum storage experiments, solid-state systems also offer interesting perspectives.

Among these, the rare-earth doped crystals recently emerged as attractive candidates because they are ensembles of optically active ions naturally trapped in inert media, which do not require external trapping fields and ultra-high vacuum chambers. They have already featured performances equalising or overcoming those of trapped atoms or cold atomic ensembles in terms of efficiency and storage times. These crystals exhibit transitions both in the optical and in the radio- and micro-wave range, thus they could serve as photonic or microwave memories, but also as interfaces between optical and microwave frequencies, thus opening the way to hybrid systems employing superconducting devices.

Despite their very promising performances and the milestone experiments realised in the last decade, a unique rare-earth doped crystal that fulfils all the requirements of an ideal photonic quantum memory does not yet exist.

This project exactly tackles this problem and aims at developing a novel platform for telecom-compatible integrated quantum devices, containing solid-state quantum memories with unprecedented functionalities. The central idea is to employ not rare-earth doped crystals but stoichiometric crystals, i.e. where the rare-earth ions fully substitute one element of the crystal matrix, with the two-fold aim of increasing the absorption of light and narrowing the inhomogeneous linewidth of the electronic transitions, thanks to a lower local mechanical stress.

The challenges addressed are:

- the optimisation of the coherence properties of bulk crystals that will enable the implementation of quantum storage protocols, never demonstrated in these kind of materials;

- the exploration of confined environment, i.e. laser written waveguides, for the realisation of integrated quantum memories.

We expect the waveguide fabrication to facilitate the realisation of fibre-coupled devices and the efficient manipulation of the atomic transitions by means of electric fields, and to boost the interaction strength between the light and the rare-earth ions. This might give access to the storage of telecom light exploiting optical transitions that in diluted bulk samples would be too weak. Therefore, the proposed platform might permit the simultaneous demonstration of efficient, long-lived and multiplexed storage devices, which are also compatible with existing telecom fibre network. Such quantum memories would outperform the existing quantum storage devices, and their demonstration would open new avenues for the use of solid-state technologies for real quantum information applications.
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Organisation Website: http://www.hw.ac.uk