In the lab, scientists use lasers, crystals and beam splitters to entangle photons and then send them to disparate locations. Photo by Elsa Hahne/ORED
Sept. 27 (UPI) -- To develop the next generation of quantum technologies, scientists need to find new ways to manipulate light.
In a new paper, published Friday in the journal NPJ Quantum Information, an international group of scientists claim to have done precisely that.
According to lead author Omar Magaña-Loaiza, an assistant professor in the department of physics and astronomy at the Louisiana State University, the breakthrough could inspire quantum technologies with applications in imaging, computation, communication and cryptography.
The new method for controlling light could also aid the field of metrology, the science of measurement.
"If we're able to control photon fluctuations and associated noise," Magaña-Loaiza said in a news release. "Then, we can make more precise measurements. This technology is new and will change our field."
Scientists have made significant progress in their ability to manipulate the quantum properties of single photons and pairs of photons. Light's most important quantum property is the property of entanglement. When photons are entangled, their quantum properties -- their energy or spin-states -- remain correlated, even if they're separated by large distances.
Because scientists know two entangled particles form a single quantum entity, and that the measurement of one implies the measurement of the other. Even if the other particle remains unobserved, scientists say that one entangled photon "heralds" the other.
The latest research suggests whole groups of photons can be heralded. Magaña-Loaiza and his colleagues developed a strategy for producing so-called multiphoton states.
In the lab, scientists subtracted photons from wavepackets, a group of photons, to engender similar quantum properties among multiphoton states.
"We can reshape the form of the wavepacket and artificially increase the number of photons in it," Magaña-Loaiza said.
No longer are scientists relegated to just manipulating a single photon. The new technique can be used to produce entangled laser light and entangled natural light with desired properties.
"If you're able to manipulate light at this fundamental level you can engineer light," Magaña-Loaiza said.
The research brings physicists one step closer to entangling entire lasers, another quantum milestone.