.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}


2Physics Quote:
"Eckhard D. Falkenberg, who found evidence of an annual oscillation in the beta-decay rate of tritium, was either the first or one of the first to propose that some beta-decay rates may be variable. He suggested that the beta-decay process may be influenced by neutrinos, and attributed the annual variation to the varying Earth-Sun distance that leads to a corresponding variation in the flux of solar neutrinos as detected on Earth. Supporting evidence for the variability of beta-decay rates could be found in the results of an experiment carried out at the Brookhaven National Laboratory."
-- Peter A. Sturrock, Ephraim Fischbach, Jeffrey D. Scargle

(Read Full Article: "Indications of an Influence of Solar Neutrinos on Beta Decays"

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Airborne Demonstration of a Quantum Key Distribution Receiver Payload

Christopher J. Pugh (left) and Thomas Jennewein

Authors: Christopher J. Pugh1,2, Brendon L. Higgins1,2,  Thomas Jennewein1,2

1Institute for Quantum Computing, University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
2Dept of Physics and Astronomy, University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

Quantum safe cryptography has truly been thrust into the limelight recently, especially after the NSA announced “The Information Assurance Directorate (IAD) will initiate a transition to quantum resistant algorithms in the not too distant future,” in August of 2015. Previous to this announcement, there has been a multitude of work done in accomplishing the quantum key distribution (QKD) protocol [1], a symmetric key algorithm, which has been proven to be cryptanalytically secure, even against quantum computer attacks. One major concern with QKD is the distances over which secure keys can be generated. In optical fibers this is known to have an upper limit around a few hundred kilometers due to absorption in the fibers. For free space, we are limited in line of site as well as atmospheric turbulence.

Using satellites to assist in the key generation helps alleviate these distance concerns by linking multiple stations located on the ground which can be separated by much larger distances than allowed by ground links. Performing QKD with moving platforms are important to prove the viability of future satellite implementations. Demonstrations of QKD to aircraft, prior to this work, have operated in the downlink configuration [2,3], where the quantum source and transmitter are placed on the airborne platform. Most recently, the Chinese Micius satellite performed entanglement distribution to ground stations separated by at least 1200 kilometers which has shown the viability of using satellites for quantum information purposes [4]. While the downlink approach ultimately has the potential for higher key rate, it is more complex and is not as flexible as an uplink configuration, which places the quantum receiver on the airborne platform while keeping the quantum source at the ground station [5]. In September 2016, we successfully achieved a quantum uplink, generating quantum secure key, to an airplane [6].

Our experimental setup consists of a QKD source (in a trailer for temperature and humidity control) and transmitter located at a ground station at Smiths Falls—Montague Airport (Fig 1), and a QKD receiver located on a Twin Otter research aircraft from the National Research Council of Canada. Targeting and tracking were established using strong beacon lasers, an imaging camera, and tracking feedback to motors at each of the two sites. Once at the aircraft, the QKD signals were recorded for later processing to complete the QKD protocol and secure extract key.

In order to generate the photons for encoding the information, we use a weak coherent pulse source implementing polarization-encoded BB84 with decoy states [7] at a rate of 400 MHz. These signals are characterized at the source with an automated polarization compensation system to compensate for drifts due to the optical fiber portion of the transmission to the transmitting telescope.
Fig 1: Optical ground station located at Smiths Falls—Montague Airport. The airplane is shown in the background as the white dashed line in the sky.

At the receiver, the signal is coupled from the receiver telescope into a custom fine pointing unit which guides both the quantum and beacon signals with a fast-steering mirror. Inside the fine-pointing system, a dichroic mirror separates the quantum and beacon signals---the beacon is reflected towards a quad-cell photo-sensor, providing position feedback to guide the fast-steering mirror in a closed loop.

The quantum signal then passes into a custom integrated optical assembly, containing a passive-basis-choice polarization analysis module with a 50:50 beam splitter and polarizing beam splitters, resulting in four beams corresponding to the four BB84 measurement states (horizontal, vertical, diagonal, and anti-diagonal). These four modes are then coupled into multimode fibers and guided to Silicon avalanche photo diodes detectors. The detectors trigger low-voltage differential signalling pulses which are measured at a control and data processing unit based on Xiphos' Q7 processor card, which has recently flown on the GHGSat, with a custom daughter board.

The airplane flew two path types: circular arcs around the ground station, and lines past the ground station. The distances for each type of pass varied from 3 to 10 km. The circular paths were used for longer link times as well as to relax pointing requirements as the aircraft telescope would remain relatively still and the transmitter would observe a constant rate. The line passes are more representative of a satellite, showing different angular speeds for different portions of the pass.
Fig 2: The Smiths Falls—Montague Airport as seen from the airplane during a day test flight. The end of the telescope can be seen in the far left of the photo.

In total, we had successful quantum links in seven of 14 passes of the airplane over the ground station, generating asymptotic key in one pass and finite-size secure key in 5 passes, with one pass showing over 800 kbit. The loss in the various passes ranged from 34.4 to 51.1 dB. Angular speeds (at the transmitter) between 0.4 deg/s and 1.28 deg/s were achieved. A transmitter pointing at a typical low-Earth-orbit satellite with an altitude of roughly 600 kilometers would be tracking at an angular speed of approximately 0.7 deg/s whereas tracking the International Space Station would require approximately 1.2 deg/s.
Fig 3: (left to right) Christopher Pugh and Thomas Jennewein hold up a University of Waterloo/Institute for Quantum Computing sticker to be mounted on the NRC Twin Otter Research Aircraft. The QKD receiver can be seen in the open door of the airplane.

In this experiment, we have demonstrated the viability of components of a quantum receiver satellite payload by successfully performing quantum key distribution in an uplink configuration to an airplane. The major components in the receiver payload (fine pointing unit, integrated optics assembly, detector modules, control and data processing unit) have a clear path to flight for future satellite integration. Recently, the Canadian government and the Canadian Space Agency have announced the intent to build a quantum satellite and this work will be beginning shortly.

[1] Charles H. Bennett and Gilles Brassard, “Quantum cryptography: Public key distribution and coin tossing”. In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Computers, Systems and Signal Processing, Bangalore, India, pages 175-179 (IEEE Press, New York, 1984). Article.
[2] Sebastian Nauerth, Florian Moll, Markus Rau, Christian Fuchs, Joachim Horwath, Stefan Frick, Harald Weinfurter, “Air-to-ground quantum communication”. Nature Photonics, 7, 382 (2013). Abstract.
[3] Jian-Yu Wang, Bin Yang, Sheng-Kai Liao, Liang Zhang, Qi Shen, Xiao-Fang Hu, Jin-Cai Wu, Shi-Ji Yang, Hao Jiang, Yan-Lin Tang, Bo Zhong, Hao Liang, Wei-Yue Liu, Yi-Hua Hu, Yong-Mei Huang, Bo Qi, Ji-Gang Ren, Ge-Sheng Pan, Juan Yin, Jian-Jun Jia, Yu-Ao Chen, Kai Chen, Cheng-Zhi Peng, Jian-Wei Pan., “Direct and full-scale experimental verifications towards ground-satellite quantum key distribution”. Nature Photonics, 7, 387 (2013). Abstract.
[4] Juan Yin, Yuan Cao, Yu-Huai Li, Sheng-Kai Liao, Liang Zhang, Ji-Gang Ren, Wen-Qi Cai, Wei-Yue Liu, Bo Li, Hui Dai, Guang-Bing Li, Qi-Ming Lu, Yun-Hong Gong, Yu Xu, Shuang-Lin Li, Feng-Zhi Li, Ya-Yun Yin, Zi-Qing Jiang, Ming Li, Jian-Jun Jia, Ge Ren, Dong He, Yi-Lin Zhou, Xiao-Xiang Zhang, Na Wang, Xiang Chang, Zhen-Cai Zhu, Nai-Le Liu, Yu-Ao Chen, Chao-Yang Lu, Rong Shu, Cheng-Zhi Peng, Jian-Yu Wang, Jian-Wei Pan, “Satellite-based entanglement distribution over 1200 kilometers”. Science, 356:1140 (2017). Abstract.
[5] J-P Bourgoin, E Meyer-Scott, B L Higgins, B Helou, C Erven, H Hübel, B Kumar, D Hudson, I D'Souza, R Girard, R Laflamme, T. Jennewein, “A comprehensive design and performance analysis of low Earth orbit satellite quantum communication”. New Journal of Physics, 15, 023006 (2013). Abstract.
[6] Christopher J Pugh, Sarah Kaiser, Jean-Philippe Bourgoin, Jeongwan Jin, Nigar Sultana, Sascha Agne, Elena Anisimova, Vadim Makarov, Eric Choi, Brendon L Higgins, Thomas Jennewein, “Airborne demonstration of a quantum key distribution receiver payload”. Quantum Science and Technology, 2, 024009 (2017). Abstract.
[7] Hoi-Kwong Lo, Xiongfeng Ma, Kai Chen, “Decoy state quantum key distribution”. Physical Review Letters, 94, 230504 (2005). Abstract.

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Sunday, July 09, 2017

Observations of Short-Period Stars Orbiting the Supermassive Black Hole in our Galactic Center Are Probing the Gravitational Theory

From left to right: Aurelien Hees, Andrea M. Ghez, Tuan Do

Authors: Aurelien Hees, Andrea M. Ghez, Tuan Do

Galactic Center Group, University of California Los Angeles, USA

Our current understanding of fundamental physics is based on four interactions: electromagnetism, the weak interaction, the strong interaction and gravitation. The first three ones are unified in a common framework, the Standard Model of particle physics based on a relativistic quantum field theory. On the other hand, Einstein’s theory of General Relativity, the gravitational theory, has not been successfully included in this quantum framework so far. The development of a quantum theory of gravity is important to understand phenomena that take place in very strong gravitational fields like for example in our very early universe or around black holes.

In addition, Dark Matter and Dark Energy are contributing to 26% and 69% to the mass-energy content of our Universe [1]. These two components of our Universe, essential to explain some cosmological and astrophysical observations, have not been directly observed so far and are also challenging General Relativity (see e.g. [2]).

For these reasons, in the last decades, theoreticians have developed many modified gravitational theories (see [3] and references therein). On the other hand, there has been a tremendous effort to confront General Relativity with different observations and to search for a deviation from General Relativity using a large number of experiments (see the review [4]). Historically, tests of gravitation have been first performed in the Solar System and in laboratories on Earth where extremely good accuracy in the measurements can be achieved. In these low gravitational fields, the agreement between General Relativity’s predictions and observations is extremely good. It is therefore highly interesting to perform such tests in other environments, such as in strong gravitational fields.

The motion of short-period stars orbiting around the supermassive black hole in the center of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, has been tracked since 1995 at the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii by the UCLA Galactic Center Group. The stars observed close to the black hole have orbital periods of the orders of 10-50 years, allowing us to measure quasi-Keplerian motion (similar to
the motion of the planets around our Sun). These observations have led to many great discoveries, the most important one being the evidence for a supermassive black hole at the center of our Galaxy [5]. Two types of observations are made at the Keck observatory: (i) astrometric observations which give the 2-dimensional position of the stars in the plane of the sky and (ii) spectroscopic measurements which give the radial velocity of the stars. Nowadays, the typical accuracy of these measurements is at the level of 0.2 milliarcsecond for astrometry and of 30 km/s for radial velocity for a bright star. Recently, observations of two of these stars, S0-2 (period: 16 years) and S0-38 (period: 19 years), have been used to measure our distance to the Galactic Center and the mass of the central supermassive black hole with an accuracy of 5% [6] (Fig. 1 shows the orbit of these two stars).
Fig 1 : Orbital motion of two stars, S0-2 and S0-38, orbiting around the supermassive black hole at the center of our Galaxy. Observations of these two stars have been used to test the gravitational theory and to constrain the presence of a hypothetical 5th force.  Credit: S. Sakai and A. Ghez, W. M. Keck Observatory/UCLA Galactic Center Group.

In a recent work [7], we used these observations to perform a test of the gravitational theory using orbital dynamics in a strong gravitational field generated by a supermassive black hole. The main novelty in using these measurements to test General Relativity comes from the fact that we are probing the gravitational theory in a gravitational field much stronger than for example in the Solar System, around a central mass which is much more massive (the black hole mass is 4 x 106 the mass of the Sun) and around an extremely interesting body: a black hole.

 More precisely, short-period stars are constraining the presence of a hypothetical fifth force in our Galactic Center. A fifth interaction is predicted by many modifications of General Relativity developed in order to unify it with the Standard Model of particle physics and by models of Dark Matter and Dark Energy. This fifth force is parametrized by a length of interaction λ and a strength of interaction  α, both of these parameters being constrained observationally by Solar System observations and by laboratory measurements (see e.g. [8]). We used observations of S0-2 and S0-38 to search for a fifth force in a strong gravitational field generated by a black hole [7]. No deviation from General Relativity has been observed and new constraint on this scenario has been derived (see Fig. 2).

 Two main factors are expected to improve such an analysis in the future. First, in 2018, the star S0-2 will experience its closest approach to the supermassive black hole. At that time, the gravitational effects experienced by the star are the strongest and the possibility to measure relativistic effects and to test General Relativity is enhanced. Observations during S0-2’s closest approach in 2018 will be the most sensitive to a hypothetical deviation from General Relativity. The UCLA Galactic Center Group is currently actively preparing this wonderful event. On the other hand, the development of the next generation of extremely large telescope, such as the Thirty Meter Telescope, will allow us to detect and to track stars that are even closer to the black hole. On the long-term, this will improve significantly tests of General Relativity.
Fig 2: (click on the image to view with higher resolution) Constraints on a hypothetical fifth interaction. In green are constraints coming from Earth observations or from the LAGEOS satellites, in blue the constraints coming from Lunar Laser Ranging observations, in orange constraints from planetary ephemerides and in red the new constraint obtained using observations of stars around our Galactic Center. Our current analysis probed the 5th interaction in a strong gravity field as emphasized in the right panel (red region).

[1] Planck Collaboration, “Planck 2015 results. XIII. Cosmological parameters”. Astronomy & Astrophysics, 594, A13 (2016). Abstract.
[2] Ivan Debono, George F. Smoot, “General Relativity and Cosmology: Unsolved Questions and Future Directions”. Universe, 2, 23 (2016). Abstract.
[3] Timothy Clifton, Pedro G. Ferreira, Antonio Padilla, Constantinos Skordis, “Modified gravity and cosmology”. Physics Reports, 513, 1 (2012). Abstract.
[4] Clifford M. Will, “The Confrontation between General Relativity and Experiment”. Living Review in Relativity, 17, 4 (2014). Abstract.
[5] A. M. Ghez, B. L. Klein, M. Morris, E. E. Becklin, “High Proper-Motion Stars in the Vicinity of  
Sagittarius A*: Evidence for a Supermassive Black Hole at the Center of Our Galaxy”.  Astrophysical Journal, 509, 678 (1998). Abstract.
[6] A. Boehle, A. M. Ghez, R. Schödel, L. Meyer, S. Yelda, S. Albers, G. D. Martinez, E. E. Becklin, T. Do, J. R. Lu, K. Matthews, M. R. Morris, B. Sitarski, G. Witzel, “An Improved Distance and Mass Estimate for Sgr A* from a Multistar Orbit Analysis”. Astrophysical Journal, 830, 17 (2016). Abstract.
[7] A. Hees, T. Do, A. M. Ghez, G. D. Martinez, S. Naoz, E. E. Becklin, A. Boehle, S. Chappell, D. Chu, A. Dehghanfar, K. Kosmo, J. R. Lu, K. Matthews, M. R. Morris, S. Sakai, R. Schödel, G. Witzel, “Testing General Relativity with stellar orbits around the supermassive black hole in our Galactic center”. Physical. Review Letters, 118, 211101 (2017). Abstract.
[8] E.G. Adelberger, J.H. Gundlach, B.R. Heckel, S. Hoedl, S. Schlamminger, “Torsion balance experiments: A low-energy frontier of particle physics”. Progress in Particle and Nuclear Physics 62, 102 (2009). Abstract.

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Sunday, July 02, 2017

An Efficient Energy Transfer Mechanism on the Nanoscale Using Plasmonic Nanoparticles

From Left to Right: (top row) Larousse Khosravi Khorashad, Lucas V. Besteiro, Eva-Maria Roller, (bottom row) Claudia Pupp, Tim Liedl, Alexander O. Govorov
Authors: Larousse Khosravi Khorashad1, Lucas V. Besteiro1, Eva-Maria Roller2, Claudia Pupp2, Tim Liedl2, Alexander O. Govorov1

1Department of Physics and Astronomy, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio 45701, United States 

2Department of Physics and Center for NanoScience, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, 80539 Munich, Germany

Research in electronic devices is pushing the size of transistors below the 10 nm mark, but at this scale information processing faces difficulties in terms of heat dissipation, as well as in controlling quantum effects such as electron tunneling. An alternative to electron-based computing lies in the creation of all-optical computational devices. Although we are still far from producing functional processors, today we show how plasmonic structures are viable tools not only for the nanoscale localization of electromagnetic energy but also its transfer, contrary to what their typically high dissipation rates would have us believe.

Plasmonics, in general terms, is the field of Physics that studies the interaction of light with materials, mostly at the nanoscale, that support collective electronic oscillations [1]. These plasmonic materials are typically metallic nanoparticles (NPs) or heavily doped semiconductors that exhibit free-electron behavior. When light, as an electromagnetic wave, is incident on the NPs, the free electron gas of the NPs is excited and oscillates as a result of the polarization of the electromagnetic wave. These excited plasmonic oscillations typically have resonances in the visible spectral range and the resonance frequencies depend on the type, shape and size of the plasmon-supporting material.

Plasmonic materials afford us the capability of manipulating light and funneling its energy at the nanoscale, and has enabled the creation of novel devices, from optical metamaterials [2] to efficient nanoscale heat generators [3]. For all-optical computational devices, it is challenging to transfer and manipulate photonic energy at the nanoscale. Here, photon transfer is not feasible using traditional waveguides such as glass fibers, which require sizes comparable to the wavelength of the confined light. Plasmonic nanostructures are remarkably effective in localizing the electromagnetic energy of light, but these structures suffer from high energy losses due to the high rate of electron scattering with the background charges in the material. In our recent work [4] we show how this essential limitation can be successfully circumvented by carefully considering the interaction of different material systems with distinct plasmonic resonances.
Figure 1. TEM image of a trimer fabricated with the DNA origami technique, with a 30 nm AgNP placed between two 40 nm AuNPs. Below there is an energy diagram of the trimer. The AgNP resonance is not fully excited, acting as an efficient energy transmitter, coupling the outer AuNPs. Figure adapted from Ref. [4]

By carefully arranging two gold NPs (AuNPs) and a silver NP (AgNP) in a linear chain , our model system takes advantage of the different optical spectra of gold and silver [4]. Figure 1 shows a transmission electron microscopy (TEM) image of one of the experimentally fabricated trimers, illustrating the arrangement of our proposed hybrid nanostructure. The two 40 nm AuNPs are spatially separated by a 38 nm gap, partially occupied by a 30 nm AgNP that leaves two 4 nm interparticle gaps. To achieve this accurate NP arrangement we have used the DNA origami technique [5,6] to build a rigid bundle of 14 interconnected, parallel DNA double helices. At three points along this DNA structure, attachment sites for each particle are built, consisting of single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) extensions with orthogonal sequences for each material. Figure 1 also includes a schematic energy diagram of the trimer, which illustrates the main effect explored in the paper. The two AuNP plasmon states are only weakly coupled due to the distance separating them, but the connecting AgNP acts as a bridge for their interaction. More importantly, it mediates the transfer with a plasmonic resonance of different energy than the resonance of the AuNPs. In this way, the AgNP plasmon state is not fully occupied and it functions as a virtual state for the plasmon to travel from one AuNP to the other.

The presence of the AgNP is crucial for the coherent transfer of energy from one AuNP (transmitter) to another (receiver) with negligible energy dissipation. The AgNP bridges the large gap between the AuNPs with a virtual energy state that allows the transfer to take place. As we confirmed experimentally, the distance between the AuNPs is enough to impede their coupling in the absence of the mediating particle. In fact, the AuNPs would respond mostly as independent dipoles in the absence of the AgNP. With the three particles in place, the longitudinal plasmonic resonance of the trimer is far from the resonant frequency of the AgNP. Therefore, this mediating particle facilitates the coupling of the two AuNPs and the excitation of the global trimer plasmon mode, while avoiding the dissipation of heat that would appear in the AgNP resonant excitation. Importantly, our simulations show the hot spots that typically occur between the surfaces of metal particles in close proximity, allowing here the effective coupling of their near fields. The coupling is experimentally verified through the observation of the scattering spectra of the trimer, evidencing the hybridization of the plasmonic modes of the NPs. Figure 2 showcases some of the scattering experimental data, alongside results from the simulated system.
Figure 2: (click on the image to view with higher resolution) Experimental (a) and simulated (b) spectra of interacting trimers, compared with a weakly interacting gold NP dimer. The scattering signal is red shifted and strongly enhanced when introducing the mediating silver NP, creating a new resonance for the whole interacting system and evidencing the hybridization of their originally non-interacting states. Figure adapted from Ref. [4]

In a second set of classical electrodynamic simulations, we observed the time resolved transfer inside the trimer after being excited by a single point dipole source, located just outside the chain. We find an extremely fast plasmon passage between the two outer particles, orders of magnitudes faster than the energy transfer observed in typical Förster-type dipole-dipole interactions [7]. By our calculations, we estimate a transfer time of about 5 fs and the oscillation of energy between the two gold particles for more than 40 fs (Figure 3). We have also described the system with a theoretical quantum model in which the three NPs are considered as three quantum oscillators that are coupled to each other via Coulomb interactions. This quantum model predicts the energy shift of the system’s bright plasmon modes that are observed experimentally, as well as the dark modes found in a full electrodynamical simulation.
Figure 3: (click on the image to view with higher resolution) Evolution in time of the excitation in the two AuNPs as obtained from simulations, showing the total electric dipole in each NP after a pulse excitation by a dipole source close to the left AuNP. The diagram on top is a representation of the trimer and the source. The middle AgNP acts as a transmitter. The data in (b), shown in a logarithmic scale, is the total amplitude of the dipolar moment in each gold NP, in which one can appreciate the back-and-forth transfer of the excitation between the AuNPs. Figure adapted from Ref. [4]

In summary, in this research we presented a novel approach toward fast and almost loss-less plasmon transfer between metal nanoparticles, which can have a great impact in applications for energy and information transfer on the nanoscale. We used a simple combination of gold and silver nanoparticles to coherently transfer energy and overcome the large heat dissipation characteristic of plasmonic systems. Our proposed quantum model provides us with a clear understanding of the physics, and our full electrodynamic simulation is in excellent agreement with the experimental measurements performed on this exciting system. This work opens new doors for designing future optical-based computing devices and for the teleportation of data over longer distances at the nanoscale.

[1] Stefan A. Maier, "Plasmonics: fundamentals and applications" (Springer, 2007).
[2] Kan Yao and Yongmin Liu, “Plasmonic metamaterials”. Nanotechnology Rev.iews  3, 177 (2014).  Abstract.
[3] Larousse Khosravi Khorashad, Lucas V. Besteiro, Zhiming Wang, Jason Valentine, and Alexander O. Govorov, “Localization of Excess Temperature Using Plasmonic Hot Spots in Metal Nanostructures: Combining Nano-Optical Antennas with the Fano Effect”. Journal of Physical Chemistry C, 120, 13215 (2016). Abstract.
[4] Eva-Maria Roller, Lucas V. Besteiro, Claudia Pupp, Larousse Khosravi Khorashad, Alexander O. Govorov and Tim Liedl, “Hotspot-mediated non-dissipative and ultrafast plasmon passage”. Nature Physics (published online May 15, 2017). Abstract.
[5] Anton Kuzyk, Robert Schreiber, Zhiyuan Fan, Günther Pardatscher, Eva-Maria Roller, Alexander Högele, Friedrich C. Simmel, Alexander O. Govorov and Tim Liedl, “DNA-based self-assembly of chiral plasmonic nanostructures with tailored optical response". Nature, 483,  311 (2012). Abstract.
[6] Paul W. K. Rothemund, “Folding DNA to create nanoscale shapes and patterns”. Nature, 440,  297 (2006). Abstract.
[7] Volkhard May and Oliver Kühn, “Charge and Energy Transfer Dynamics in Molecular Systems” (3rd Ed. Wiley, 2011). 

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Solving Linear Equations on Scalable Superconducting Quantum Computing Chip

From left to right: Chao-Yang Lu, Jian-Wei Pan, Xiaobo Zhu, H. Wang, Ming-Cheng Chen

Authors: Ming-Cheng Chen1, H. Wang2, Xiaobo Zhu1,3, Chao-Yang Lu1, Jian-Wei Pan1

1Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Sciences at Microscale and Department of Modern Physics, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, Anhui 230026, China,
2Department of Physics, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang 310027, China,
3Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100190, China.

One-sentence summary:
Quantum solver of linear system is achieved on scalable superconducting quantum computing chip.

The most ambitious target of quantum computing is to provide both high-efficiency and useful quantum software for killer applications. After decades of intense research on quantum computing, several quantum algorithms are found to demonstrate speedup over their classical counterparts, such as quantum simulation of molecular or condensed system [1], Grover search on unstructured database [2], Shor's period finding to crack RSA cryptography [3], matrix inversion to solve linear systems [4] and sampling from a hard distribution [5, 6]. Among them, sampling from a hard distribution is the most radical example to show the pure quantum computing power beyond the reach of any modern conventional computer and achieve "quantum supremacy" in the near-term [7].

However, the high-efficiency quantum supremacy algorithms have not been found to have practical applications yet. And the Grover search and Shor's period finding algorithms are limited to specific applications. On the contrary, the linear equations quantum algorithm can be applied to almost all areas of science and engineering and recently it finds fascinating applications in data science as a basic subroutine, for instance, in quantum data fitting [8] and quantum support vector machine [9].

Matrix inversion quantum algorithm to solve linear systems [4] is proposed by Harrow, Hassidim and Lloyd (HHL) in 2009 to estimate some features of the solution with exponential speedup. The algorithm uses the celebrated quantum phase estimation technology to force the computation to work at the eigen-basis of system matrix and reduce the matrix inversion to simple eigenvalue reciprocal. A compiled version of the HHL algorithm was previously demonstrated with linear optics [10, 11] and liquid NMR [12] quantum computing platforms, however, both of which are considered not easily scalable to a large number of qubits. Recently, we report the new implementation of the HHL algorithm on solid superconducting quantum circuit system, which is deterministic and easy scalable to large scale.

We run a nontrivial instance of smallest 2×2 system on superconducting circuit chip with four X-shape transmon qubits [13] and tens of one- and two-qubit quantum gates. The chip was fabricated on a sapphire substrate and used aluminum material to define superconducting qubits, resonators and transmission lines. With careful calibration, the single-qubit rotating gates were estimated to be of 98% fidelity and two-qubit entangling gates were of above 95% fidelity. Figure 1 and Figure 2 illustrate the quantum chip and the working quantum circuits, respectively.
Fig. 1: False color photomicrograph of the superconducting quantum circuit for solving 2×2 linear equations. Shown are the four X-shape transmon qubits, marked from Q1 to Q4, and their corresponding readout resonators.
Fig. 2: (click on image to view with higher resolution) Compiled quantum circuits for solving 2×2 linear equations with four qubits. There are three subroutines and more than 15 gates as indicated.

The quantum solver was tested by 18 different input vectors and the corresponding output solution vectors were characterized using quantum state tomography. In our 2*2 instance, the output qubit was measured along X, Y and Z axes of the Bloch sphere, respectively. The estimated quantum state fidelities ranged from 84.0% to 92.3%. The collected data was further used to infer the quantum process matrix of the solver and yielded the process fidelity of 83.7%. Figure 3 and Figure 4 show the experimental quantum state fidelity distribution and the quantum process matrix, respectively.
Fig. 3: Experimental quantum state fidelity distribution of the output states corresponding to the 18 input states.
Fig. 4: The real parts of the experimental quantum process matrix (bars with color) and the ideal quantum process matrix (black frames). All imaginary components (data not shown) of quantum process are measured to be no higher than 0.015 in magnitude.

These experimental results indicate that our superconducting quantum linear solver for 2*2 system have successfully operated. To scale the solver for more complicated instance with high solution accuracy, further improvement of device design and fabrication to increase quantum bit coherent time and optimization of quantum control pulses to reduce the operating time and error rate are necessary. In superconducting quantum circuit platform, there have been vast efforts devoted to scale the circuit complexity and quality, which have extended the qubit coherent time 5~6 orders of magnitude [14] manipulated up to 10 qubits [15] in the past decades, and we can expect the continuous progress in next decade to reach a mature level.

[1] I. M. Georgescu, S. Ashhab, Franco Nori, "Quantum simulation". Reviews of Modern Physics, 86, 153 (2014). Abstract.
[2] P. Shor, “Algorithms for quantum computation: discrete logarithms and factoring” in Proc. 35th Annu. Symp. on the Foundations of Computer Science, edited by S. Goldwasser (IEEE Computer Society Press, Los Alamitos, California, 1994), p. 124–134. Abstract.
[3] Lov K. Grover, "A Fast Quantum Mechanical Algorithm for Database Search", Proceedings of 28th Annual ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing, pp. 212-219 (1996). Abstract.
[4]  Aram W. Harrow, Avinatan Hassidim, Seth Lloyd, “Quantum algorithm for linear systems of equations”. Physical Review Letters, 103, 150502 (2009). Abstract.
[5] A. P. Lund, Michael J. Bremner, T. C. Ralph, "Quantum sampling problems, BosonSampling and quantum supremacy." NPJ Quantum Information, 3:15 (2017). Abstract.
[6] Hui Wang, Yu He, Yu-Huai Li, Zu-En Su, Bo Li, He-Liang Huang, Xing Ding, Ming-Cheng Chen, Chang Liu, Jian Qin, Jin-Peng Li, Yu-Ming He, Christian Schneider, Martin Kamp, Cheng-Zhi Peng, Sven Höfling, Chao-Yang Lu, Jian-Wei Pan, "High-efficiency multiphoton boson sampling". Nature Photonics 11, 361 (2017). Abstract.
[7] John Preskill, "Quantum computing and the entanglement frontier". arXiv:1203.5813 (2012).
[8] Nathan Wiebe, Daniel Braun, Seth Lloyd, "Quantum algorithm for data fitting". Physical review letters 109, 050505 (2012). Abstract.
[9] Patrick Rebentrost, Masoud Mohseni, Seth Lloyd, "Quantum support vector machine for big data classification". Physical review letters 113, 130503 (2014). Abstract.
[10] X.-D. Cai, C. Weedbrook, Z.-E. Su, M.-C. Chen, Mile Gu, M.-J. Zhu, Li Li, Nai-Le Liu, Chao-Yang Lu, Jian-Wei Pan, "Experimental quantum computing to solve systems of linear equations". Physical review letters 110, 230501 (2013). Abstract.
[11] Stefanie Barz, Ivan Kassal, Martin Ringbauer, Yannick Ole Lipp, Borivoje Dakić, Alán Aspuru-Guzik, Philip Walther, "A two-qubit photonic quantum processor and its application to solving systems of linear equations". Scientific reports 4, 6115 (2014). Abstract.
[12] Jian Pan, Yudong Cao, Xiwei Yao, Zhaokai Li, Chenyong Ju, Hongwei Chen, Xinhua Peng, Sabre Kais, Jiangfeng Du, "Experimental realization of quantum algorithm for solving linear systems of equations". Physical Review A 89, 022313 (2004). Abstract.
[13] Jens Koch, Terri M. Yu, Jay Gambetta, A. A. Houck, D. I. Schuster, J. Majer, Alexandre Blais, M. H. Devoret, S. M. Girvin, R. J. Schoelkopf, "Charge-insensitive qubit design derived from the Cooper pair box". Physical Review A 76, 042319 (2007). Abstract.
[14] M. H. Devoret, R. J. Schoelkopf1, "Superconducting circuits for quantum information: an outlook". Science, 339, 1169 (2013). Abstract.
[15] Chao Song, Kai Xu, Wuxin Liu, Chuiping Yang, Shi-Biao Zheng, Hui Deng, Qiwei Xie, Keqiang Huang, Qiujiang Guo, Libo Zhang, Pengfei Zhang, Da Xu, Dongning Zheng, Xiaobo Zhu, H. Wang, Y.-A. Chen, C.-Y. Lu, Siyuan Han, J.-W. Pan, "10-qubit entanglement and parallel logic operations with a superconducting circuit". arXiv:1703.10302 (2017). 


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Schmidt Decomposition Made Universal to Unveil the Entanglement of Identical Particles

From left to right: Stefania Sciara, Rosario Lo Franco, Giuseppe Compagno

Authors: Stefania Sciara1,2, Rosario Lo Franco2,3, Giuseppe Compagno2

1INRS-EMT, Varennes, Québec J3X 1S2, Canada,
2Dipartimento di Fisica e Chimica, Università di Palermo, Italy,
3Dipartimento di Energia, Ingegneria dell'Informazione e Modelli Matematici, Università di Palermo,  Italy.

The Schmidt decomposition is an important mathematical tool which has been already utilized during the early stages of quantum theory by Schrödinger in the context of quantum measurements [1-3]. This tool allows to determine the set of measurements on one part of the system such that the measurement outcome on the other part is determined, in the sense that to each outcome of the first measurement it corresponds a unique outcome for the second measurement. Schmidt decomposition has been shown to be at the heart of quantum information theory, quantifying entanglement in bipartite systems. It has been also widely employed in the context of Einstein-Podolski-Rosen (EPR) paradox, Bell non-locality and black-hole physics [2-4].

Every element of this decomposition consists unavoidably of two independent subsystems. Application of the Schmidt decomposition to identical particles is therefore hindered by the fact that overlapping particles can never be considered independent. In fact, despite its wide utilization in systems of distinguishable particles, the Schmidt decomposition has remained debated for identical particles [5,6]. For instance, it is well known that for distinguishable particles this tool assesses the entanglement of the system by the von Neumann entropy of the reduced density matrix, whose eigenvalues are the squares of the Schmidt coefficients appearing in the decomposition [3]. Differently, in the case of identical particles, it has been claimed that the relationship between the Schmidt coefficients and the eigenvalues of the reduced density matrix breaks down [6]. In strict connection with this issue, the partial trace operation to get the reduced state has not been considered suitable for quantifying the entanglement of pure states of identical particles [6-8].

We recall that, in Nature, particles are of different types, all particles of each type (electrons, protons, photons and so on) being identical. In the quantum world, the identity of particles gives rise to a new characteristic with respect to the classical world, that is the indistinguishability among particles of the same type [9,10]. This exclusive quantum trait leads to fundamental properties of matter such that particles can be of two classes, named bosons and fermions. Moreover, at variance with the case of distinguishable particles, when identical particles have wave functions that spatially overlap, they can never be taken as independent of each other [11,12].

The latter behavior is an essential requisite in determining features like quantum correlations (e.g., entanglement) among the particles themselves and in the theory of measurement [1]. Nevertheless, identical particles constitute the building blocks of quantum information and computation theory, being present in Bose-Einstein condensates [13,14], quantum dots [15,16], superconducting circuits [17] and optical setups [18,19]. It is thus important to have trustable methods and tools to characterize the quantum features of composite systems of identical particles under these general conditions.

A first step towards this goal has been provided by a recent non-standard approach [12] which deals with systems of identical particles within a particle-based description (that is, in terms of particle states) without resorting to the usual practice to assign fictitious labels to the particles [9,10], which render the latter distinguishable removing their indistinguishability. In this way, the ambiguity arising from the introduction of these labels in evaluating quantum correlations in identical particle systems is avoided. This method has, in fact, provided a way to calculate partial trace and von Neumann entropy for identical particles. Using this new approach, in a recent work [20] we have been able to demonstrate that the Schmidt decomposition is universal, meaning that it is also obtainable for an arbitrary state of indistinguishable particles (bosons or fermions) under general conditions of spatial overlap. Thanks to this achievement, the amount of entanglement present in identical particle systems in pure states can be evaluated by the von Neumann entropy of the reduced density matrix, as occurs in the case of distinguishable particles.

We have used the Schmidt decomposition to analyze some paradigmatic states of two identical particles to find the suitable measurement basis for unveiling their entanglement properties. These systems are illustrated in Figure 1 and represent simple yet effective examples which make it emerge the effect of particle identity. The first one is the well-known condition of two identical qubits with opposite pseudospins in spatially separated locations, denoted with left (L) and right (R) (see Fig. 1a).
Figure 1. (a) Two identical qubits in two spatially separated places with opposite pseudospins. (b) Two identical qubits in the same spatial mode with arbitrary pseudospins. (c) Two identical qutrits (three-level quantum systems) in the same spatial mode. The shaded ellipses indicate that the particles are entangled. Figure from Ref. [20].

Indeed, we have found that the Schmidt decomposition and the corresponding von Neumann entropy supply the results which are physically expected in this situation, such as zero entanglement for a product (separable) state of the two particles and maximal entanglement for a Bell state. We have also explicitly shown that nonlocal measurements induce entanglement in a state of distant identical particles. This means that, in principle, identical particles cannot be considered completely independent even when they are spatially separated. Application of the Schmidt decomposition to a system of two boson qubits in the same site (see Fig. 1b) has evidenced that the entanglement increases as the two internal states tend to be orthogonal, as displayed in the plot of Fig. 2. This finding is a generalization of a previous result obtained only for two identical qubits in the same spatial mode with orthogonal internal states (or pseudospins, that is θ = π in the plot of Fig. 2) [12].

Figure 2. Entanglement between the pseudospins of two identical particles in the same site, quantified by the von Neumann entropy, as a function of the angle θ between the directions of the two pseudospins (internal states). Figure from Ref. [20].

Two identical (boson) qutrits, that is three-level quantum systems, constitute a system of interest being promising candidates for quantum processors thanks to their good capacity to store quantum information [21,22]. We consider the qutrits in the same site, that is under the condition of complete spatial overlap, as depicted in Fig. 1c. Our method easily determines the two-qutrit entanglement for given combinations of their internal states and provides a physical interpretation. We remark that the entanglement found for the two qutrits is different from that obtained for the same system by an alternative approach, based on a so-called subalgebra technique [8]. The origin of this difference in the entanglement measure requires further investigation, for instance by comparing the two theoretical approaches or by experimental verifications.

We now briefly discuss the practical aspect concerning the possibility to exploit the entanglement of identical particles, as identified by the Schmidt decomposition we have introduced. In the context of quantum information processing with distinguishable particles, a well-established resource theory is based on local operations and classical communication (LOCC), where each particle is individually addressed [1-3]. On the other hand, a peculiar trait of indistinguishable particles is that it is not possible to operate on a given individual particle. This characteristic in general hinders the manipulation of composite systems of identical particles for desired tasks of quantum information and computation. Nevertheless, it is known that the entanglement quantified by the von Neumann entropy can be extracted from the state of identical particles and then utilized in a conditional way by LOCC [23].

In conclusion, the universal character of the Schmidt decomposition shown in our work allows a faithful treatment of the entanglement of composite systems of identical particles and opens the way to more general investigations of collective properties of such systems.

[1] Ryszard Horodecki, Paweł Horodecki, Michał Horodecki, Karol Horodecki, “Quantum entanglement”, Review of Modern Physics, 81, 865 (2009). Abstract.
[2] John Preskill, “Lectures notes for physics 229: Quantum information and computation” (1998) Link.
[3] Michael A. Nielsen and Isaac L. Chuang, “Quantum Computation and Quantum Information” (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2000).
[4] E.D. Belokolos, M.V. Teslyk, “Scalar field entanglement entropy of a Schwarzschild black hole from the Schmidt decomposition viewpoint”, Classical and Quantum Gravity, 26, 235008 (2009). Abstract.
[5] R. Paškauskas, L. You, “Quantum correlations in two-boson wave functions”, Physical Review A, 64, 042310 (2001). Abstract.
[6] Malte C Tichy, Florian Mintert, Andreas Buchleitner, “Essential entanglement for atomic and molecular physics”, Journal of Physics B: Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics. 44, 192001 (2011). Abstract.
[7] GianCarlo Ghirardi, Luca Marinatto, Tullio Weber, “Entanglement and properties of composite quantum systems: a conceptual and mathematical analysis”, Journal of Statistical Physics 108, 49 (2002). Abstract.
[8] A. Balachandran, T. Govindarajan, Amilcar R. de Queiroz, A. Reyes-Lega, “Entanglement and particle identity: A unifying approach”, Physical Review Letters, 110, 080503 (2013). Abstract.
[9] Asher Peres, “Quantum Theory: Concepts and Methods” (Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 1995).
[10] Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, Bernard Diu, Franck Laloe, “Quantum mechanics, Vol. 2” (Wiley-VCH, Paris, France, 2005).
[11] John Schliemann, J. Ignacio Cirac, Marek Kuś, Maciej Lewenstein, Daniel Loss, “Quantum correlations in two-fermion systems”, Physical Review A, 64, 022303 (2001). Abstract.
[12] Rosario Lo Franco, Giuseppe Compagno, “Quantum entanglement of identical particles by standard information-theoretic notions”, Scientific  Reports, 6, 20603 (2016). Abstract.
[13] Immanuel Bloch, Jean Dalibard, Wilhelm Zwerger, “Many-body physics with ultracold gases”, Review of Modern Physics, 80, 885 (2008). Abstract.
[14] Marco Anderlini, Patricia J. Lee, Benjamin L. Brown, Jennifer Sebby-Strabley, William D. Phillips,  J. V. Porto, “Controlled exchange interaction between pairs of neutral atoms in an optical lattice”, Nature 448, 452 (2007). Abstract.
[15] Michael H. Kolodrubetz, Jason R. Petta, “Coherent holes in a semiconductor quantum dot”, Science 325, 42–43 (2009). Abstract.
[16] Frederico Martins, Filip K. Malinowski, Peter D. Nissen, Edwin Barnes, Saeed Fallahi, Geoffrey C. Gardner, Michael J. Manfra, Charles M. Marcus, Ferdinand Kuemmeth, “Noise suppression using symmetric exchange gates in spin qubits”, Physical Review Letters, 116, 116801 (2016). Abstract.
[17] R. Barends, L. Lamata, J. Kelly, L. García-Álvarez, A. G. Fowler, A Megrant, E Jeffrey, T. C. White, D. Sank, J. Y. Mutus, B. Campbell, Yu Chen, Z. Chen, B. Chiaro, A. Dunsworth, I.-C. Hoi, C. Neill,  P. J. J. O’Malley,  C. Quintana,  P. Roushan, A. Vainsencher, J. Wenner, E. Solano, John M. Martinis, “Digital quantum simulation of fermionic models with a superconducting circuit”, Nature Communications, 6, 7654 (2015). Abstract.
[18] Andrea Crespi, Linda Sansoni, Giuseppe Della Valle, Alessio Ciamei, Roberta Ramponi, Fabio Sciarrino, Paolo Mataloni, Stefano Longhi, Roberto Osellame, “Particle statistics affects quantum decay and Fano interference”, Physical Review Letters, 114, 090201 (2015). Abstract.
[19] Christian Reimer, Michael Kues, Piotr Roztocki, Benjamin Wetzel, Fabio Grazioso, Brent E. Little, Sai T. Chu, Tudor Johnston, Yaron Bromberg, Lucia Caspani, David J. Moss, Roberto Morandotti, “Generation of multiphoton entangled quantum states by means of integrated fre-quency combs”, Science 351, 1176 (2016). Abstract.
[20] Stefania Sciara, Rosario Lo Franco, Giuseppe Compagno, “Universality of Schmidt decomposition and particle identity”, Scientific Reports, 7, 44675 (2017). Abstract.
[21] B.P. Lanyon, T.J. Weinhold, N.K. Langford, J.L. O’Brien, K.J. Resch, A. Gilchrist, A.G. White, “Manipulating biphotonic qutrits”, Physical Review Letters, 100, 060504 (2008). Abstract.
[22] K. S. Kumar, A. Vepsalainen, S. Danilin,  G.S. Paraoanu, “Stimulated Raman adiabatic passage in a three-level superconducting circuit”, Nature Communications, 7, 10628 (2016). Abstract.
[23] N. Killoran, M. Cramer, M. B. Plenio, “Extracting entanglement from identical particles”, Physical Review Letters, 112, 150501 (2014). Abstract.

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Step Towards The Realization of A Quantum Network

Ataç Imamoglu (left) and Aymeric Delteil (right)

Authors : Aymeric Delteil, Zhe Sun, Stefan Fält, Atac Imamoglu

Affiliation: Institute of Quantum Electronics, ETH Zurich, Switzerland.

Quantum network architectures consist of local nodes comprising quantum memories that are interconnected using single photons propagating in photonic channels. In such networks, the ability to transfer a quantum bit of information (qubit) from one node to another plays a central role. In a practical implementation, the photonic qubits are generated through spontaneous emission from a matter qubit – embodied for instance by a single atom or ion, a point defect or a quantum dot in a solid-state matrix. The generated photons are then collected in a fiber and sent to another matter qubit using a photonic channel.

Since photonic channels are subject to imperfect collection efficiencies and photon losses, there is a finite probability that such a state transfer based on a single photonic qubit fails. It is therefore suitable to have a heralding signal testifying that the transfer has been successful. Although some basic elements towards such heralded quantum state transfer have already been demonstrated in previous work using various physical systems [1-4], a full node-to-node heralded transfer using single photon qubits has not been achieved to date, mainly due to the dominant role of photon losses.

Using self-assembled semiconductor quantum dots (QDs), we have demonstrated heralded absorption of a neutral (source) QD generated single photonic qubit, by a single-electron charged (target) QD that is located 5 m away [5]. The photonic qubit is thereby transferred and stored in the spin degree of freedom of the single host electron. A successful process is heralded by detection of a subsequent photon that carries no information about the qubit state, which is essential to preserve the coherent quantum superposition.

The principle of our experiment is depicted in fig. 1. The source QD (QD1) is neutral and can be prepared in an arbitrary superposition of two exciton states using a two-color laser beam. This quantum state is encoded in the color of a single photon (flying qubit) generated upon radiative recombination of the QD1 exciton. This flying qubit is collected into a fiber and transferred to the target QD. Amongst the wide variety of QDs that are randomly formed during the growth of the sample, the target QD has been carefully selected to have a specific energy level scheme presenting two transitions of identical energies, such that photons emitted after absorption of the photonic qubit carry no information about the decay path. As a consequence, if the spin state is initially prepared in the superposition state |up> + |down>, upon absorption of the photonic qubit and detection of the subsequent photon, the electron spin ends in the qubit state generated by the laser excitation of the source QD.
Figure 1 : (Click on the image to view with higher resolution) Principle of the state transfer protocol based on heralded absorption of a single photon qubit.

Implementing such an experiment is particularly challenging due to finite collection efficiencies and losses in the optical elements along the chain. One of the key elements that have allowed our realization is the use of a photonic structure enabling efficient extraction of the emitted photons. More specifically, the QDs are embedded in a planar cavity and the cavity output is collected using a solid immersion lens placed on top of the sample, ensuring that about 20% of the photons from each QD are collected by the first lens. The use of sensitive superconducting single photon detector with very low dark counts as well as crossed-polarization detection to suppress the strong pump laser light and background scattering have allowed us to demonstrate heralded absorption where we detected up to about 100 successful events per second. We demonstrated that the final state of the destination quantum dot spin is correlated with the initial state of the photon (or the target QD exciton) by measuring time-resolved photon coincidences.

Our scheme can be extended to realize spin-to-spin state transfer, or to generate heralded distant entanglement between two QD spins [6]. It can also be used to connect dissimilar physical systems in the context of hybrid quantum networks [7].


[1] Stephan Ritter, Christian Nölleke, Carolin Hahn, Andreas Reiserer, Andreas Neuzner, Manuel Uphoff, Martin Mücke, Eden Figueroa, Joerg Bochmann, Gerhard Rempe, “An elementary quantum network of single atoms in optical cavities”, Nature, 484, 195 (2012). Abstract.
[2] Christoph Kurz, Michael Schug, Pascal Eich, Jan Huwer, Philipp Müller, Jürgen Eschner, “Experimental protocol for high-fidelity heralded photon-to-atom quantum state transfer”, Nature Communications, 5, 5527 (2014). Abstract.
[3] Norbert Kalb, Andreas Reiserer, Stephan Ritter, Gerhard Rempe, “Heralded Storage of a Photonic Quantum Bit in a Single Atom”, Physical Review Letters, 114, 220501 (2015). Abstract.
[4] Sen Yang, Ya Wang, D. D. Bhaktavatsala Rao, Thai Hien Tran, Ali S. Momenzadeh, M. Markham, D. J. Twitchen, Ping Wang, Wen Yang, Rainer Stöhr, Philipp Neumann, Hideo Kosaka, Jörg Wrachtrup, “High-fidelity transfer and storage of photon states in a single nuclear spin”, Nature Photonics, 10, 507 (2016). Abstract.
[5] Aymeric Delteil, Zhe Sun, Stefan Fält, Atac Imamoğlu, “Realization of a Cascaded Quantum System: Heralded Absorption of a Single Photon Qubit by a Single-Electron Charged Quantum Dot”, Physical Review Letters, 118, 177401 (2017). Abstract.
[6] D. Pinotsi and A. Imamoglu, “Single Photon Absorption by a Single Quantum Emitter”, Physical Review Letters, 100, 093603 (2008). Abstract.
[7] H. M. Meyer, R. Stockill, M. Steiner, C. Le Gall, C. Matthiesen, E. Clarke, A. Ludwig, J. Reichel, M. Atatüre, M. Köhl, “Direct Photonic Coupling of a Semiconductor Quantum Dot and a Trapped Ion”,  Physical Review Letters, 114, 123001 (2015). Abstract.

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Sunday, March 05, 2017

Ultrafast Quantum Simulator

Photos of some of the authors -- From Left to Right: (top row) Nobuyuki Takei,  Christian Sommer,  Claudiu Genes, Guido Pupillo; (bottom row)  Hisashi Chiba,  Matthias Weidemüller,  Kenji Ohmori.

Authors: Nobuyuki Takei1,2, Christian Sommer1,2,3, Claudiu Genes3, Guido Pupillo4, Haruka Goto1, Kuniaki Koyasu1,2, Hisashi Chiba1,5, Matthias Weidemüller6,7,8, Kenji Ohmori1,2

1Department of Photo-Molecular Science, Institute for Molecular Science, National Institutes of Natural Sciences, Okazaki, Japan,
2SOKENDAI (The Graduate University for Advanced Studies), Okazaki, Japan,
3Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, Erlangen, Germany,
4IPCMS (UMR 7504) and ISIS (UMR 7006), University of Strasbourg and CNRS, Strasbourg, France,
5Faculty of Engineering, Iwate University, Morioka, Japan,
6Physikalisches Institut, Universität Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany,
7Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Sciences at the Microscale and Department of Modern Physics, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China,
8CAS Center for Excellence and Synergetic Innovation Center in Quantum Information and Quantum Physics, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China.

Link to Ohmori Group in Okazaki >>

The dynamics of interactions among large numbers of electrons govern a variety of important physical and chemical phenomena such as superconductivity, magnetism, and chemical reactions. An ensemble of many particles thus interacting with each other is referred to as a “strongly correlated system”. Understanding quantum mechanical behavior of a strongly correlated system is thus one of the central goals of modern sciences. It is extremely difficult, however, to predict theoretically the properties of a strongly correlated system even using the Japanese post-K supercomputer, which is expected to be one of the world’s fastest supercomputers planned to be completed by the year 2020. For example, the post-K cannot calculate even the ground-state energy by exact diagonalization, when the number of particles in the system is more than 30. It is in general more demanding to calculate the dynamics of the strongly correlated system.

Instead of calculating with a classical computer such as the post-K, an alternative concept has been proposed by Richard Feynman in 1980’s [1] and is now referred to as a “quantum simulator”, in which quantum mechanical particles such as atoms are assembled into an artificial strongly correlated system, whose properties are known and controllable [2,3]. It is then used to simulate and understand the properties of another strongly correlated system whose properties are not known. A quantum simulator could quickly simulate quantum mechanical behavior of a large number of particles that cannot be handled even by the post-K supercomputer, expected to become a next-generation simulation platform.

We have developed a completely new quantum simulator that can simulate the quantum mechanical dynamics of a strongly correlated system of more than 40 atoms within one nanosecond [4-6]. This has been realized by introducing a novel approach in which an ultrashort laser pulse whose pulse width is only 10 picoseconds is employed to control a high-density ensemble of atoms cooled to temperatures close to absolute zero. Furthermore we have succeeded in simulating the motion of electrons of this strongly correlated system that is modulated by changing the strength of interactions among many atoms in the ensemble.

In order to generate a strongly correlated system in which a large number of particles interact simultaneously with each other, it should be effective to assemble a quantum simulator with particles whose forces could reach as far as possible. A “Rydberg atom” is expected as the most promising candidate for that [7,8]. An atom usually has a diameter of about sub-nanometer, but can be irradiated with laser light to bring an electron that moves near its atom core to a high-energy orbital called a “Rydberg orbital”, whose diameter could be more than hundreds of nanometers. The atom thus generated is referred to as a Rydberg atom. Due to its long distance between the atom core with a positive charge and the Rydberg electron with a negative charge, a Rydberg atom generates an electric field that reaches a long distance. If one could build up an ensemble of Rydberg atoms, it should become a strongly correlated system in which those many Rydberg atoms interact simultaneously with each other. However, the strong electric field induced by a Rydberg atom shifts the energies of the Rydberg orbitals of its surrounding atoms as shown schematically in Fig. 1, so that conventional laser light cannot bring electrons of those surrounding atoms to their Rydberg orbitals. Accordingly there can be only one Rydberg atom within a sphere of a certain radius. This phenomenon is referred to as “Rydberg blockade” [7,8] and needs to be circumvented to generate a strongly correlated system of Rydberg atoms.
Figure 1: Mechanism of Rydberg blockade

Moreover there is another problem to be solved to realize such a Rydberg quantum simulator. Even if one could generate a strongly correlated system, the strong interaction among the Rydberg atoms would induce the temporal evolution of their quantum states on the timescale of 100 picoseconds, which is faster by a factor of more than hundred thousand than the timescale of a quantum simulator that has so far been considered.

In order to create a Rydberg quantum simulator that can simulate a strongly correlated system, therefore, a totally new concept and technique have been needed to solve those two essential problems: (1) how to circumvent Rydberg blockade?; (2) how to observe the system on the timescale faster by a factor of hundred thousand than the one considered for a quantum simulator so far?

We have succeeded in solving those two essential problems for the first time. Figure 2a schematically shows a property of laser light that has so far been used typically for the development of a quantum simulator. It shines continuously as shown in Fig. 2(a-1) and is produced by a so-called “continuous wave laser”. This laser light has an extremely narrow range of wavelength (energy) as shown in Fig. 2(a-2). Therefore it cannot bring an electron to the Rydberg orbital that is shifted energetically in the surrounding atom as shown in Fig. 1. Instead of using this continuous wave laser, therefore, we has introduced a pulsed laser light that shines only during ~ 10 picoseconds as shown in Fig. 2(b-1). This pulsed laser light has its wavelength range broader than that of the continuous wave laser by a factor of more than one million as shown in Fig. 2(b-2). It can therefore bring an electron to the Rydberg orbital even if its energy is shifted in the surrounding atom. Moreover the temporal width of the laser pulse is one tenth of the timescale expected for the temporal evolution of the system, so that the evolution should be able to be observed in real time.
Figure 2: Properties of conventional laser light that has so far been used for the development of a quantum simulator (a-1, a-2) and of the one newly introduced in our work (b-1, b-2).

The experiment was performed with rubidium atoms. Figure 3 shows a schematic of the experiment. An ensemble of ~ 106 rubidium atoms was cooled down to an ultralow temperature around 70 microK with laser cooling techniques and trapped in a laser tweezer. These atoms were irradiated with an “ultrashort laser pulse 1” whose pulse width was ~ 10 picoseconds, and its wavelength range was appropriately manipulated with a special technique. The temporal evolution of the atoms after laser pulse 1 was observed with another “ultrashort laser pulse 2”. The delay of laser pulse 2 from laser pulse 1 was controlled ultra-precisely on the 10 attosecond timescale with a special device, so that the evolution was observed on this timescale. It was then observed in real time that the electrons of many Rydberg atoms, which were generated with laser pulse 1 that circumvented Rydberg blockade, oscillated with a period of one femtosecond, and the timing of those oscillations was gradually shifted on the timescale of 10 attoseconds due to the simultaneous interactions among more than 40 Rydberg atoms. Furthermore this timing shift has successfully been accelerated by enlarging the Rydberg orbitals or by decreasing the distances among Rydberg atoms to increase the strength of the interactions.
Figure 3: Schematic of the experimental setup.

We have thus introduced ultrashort laser pulses into a quantum simulator for the first time and succeeded in developing a totally new quantum simulator. This ultrafast quantum simulator can simulate the dynamics of a large number of particles interacting with each other that cannot be handled by even a world’s fastest supercomputer such as the post-K. The simulation has been completed in 1 nanosecond.

It has been demonstrated that our ultrafast quantum simulator can quickly simulate the dynamics of a strongly correlated system of a large number of particles interacting with each other, which cannot be handled by even the post-K supercomputer. The ultrafast quantum simulator is expected to develop into a future simulation platform that could contribute to designing superconducting and magnetic materials and drug molecules, whose functionalities are governed by strongly correlated electrons. It is also expected to serve as a fundamental tool to investigate the origins of physical properties of matter such as superconductivity and magnetism as well as the mechanism of a chemical reaction that proceeds in a complex environment such as a liquid.

[1] Richard P. Feynman, “Simulating physics with computers”, International Journal of Theoretical Physics 21, 467 (1982). Abstract.
[2] Immanuel Bloch, Jean Dalibard, Wilhelm Zwerger, “Many-body physics with ultracold gases”, Reviews of Modern Physics 80, 885 (2008). Abstract.
[3] I. M. Georgescu, S. Ashhab, Franco Nori, “Quantum simulation”, Reviews of Modern Physics 86, 153 (2014). Abstract.
[4] Nobuyuki Takei, Christian Sommer, Claudiu Genes, Guido Pupillo, Haruka Goto, Kuniaki Koyasu, Hisashi Chiba, Matthias Weidemüller,  Kenji Ohmori, “Direct observation of ultrafast many-body electron dynamics in an ultracold Rydberg gas”, Nature Communications 7, 13449 (2016). Abstract.
[5] Christian Sommer, Guido Pupillo, Nobuyuki Takei, Shuntaro Takeda, Akira Tanaka, Kenji Ohmori, Claudiu Genes, “Time-domain Ramsey interferometry with interacting Rydberg atoms”, Physical Review A 94, 053607 (2016). Abstract.
[6] Kenji Ohmori, “Optically Engineered Quantum States in Ultrafast and Ultracold Systems”, Foundations of Physics, 44, 813 (2014). Abstract.
[7] M. Saffman, T. G. Walker, and K. Mølmer, “Quantum information with Rydberg atoms”, Reviews of Modern Physics, 82, 2313 (2010). Abstract.
[8] Daniel Comparat, Pierre Pillet, “Dipole blockade in a cold Rydberg atomic sample”, Journal of the Optical Society of America, B 27, A208 (2010). Abstract.

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Glycine, an Amino Acid and Other Prebiotic Molecules in Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Kathrin Altwegg 

Author: Kathrin Altwegg and the ROSINA Team 

Affiliation: Physikalisches Institut, University of Bern, Switzerland.

By now it is an established fact that comets contain the most primitive material of all solar system bodies. In situ results from the Giotto flyby at comet Halley in 1986 and remote sensing in various wavelength ranges established the presence of many organic molecules in the coma of comets. The importance of comets for the origin of life on Earth has been the topic of many discussions in the past [1]. Among the key ingredients for life as we know it are amino acids and phosphorous. Many primitive meteorites contain amino acids. However most of them are formed by aqueous alterations [2,3]. Traces of amino acids were detected in samples from the Stardust mission to comet Wild 2 [4]. However, there always remained some doubts that these amino acids were actually cometary as the extraction and analysis of the material from the aerogel and aluminium frame always involves either hot water or even acids, which could then readily form amino acid on Earth.

In order to investigate the composition of the organics and to assess the importance of comets for the origin of terrestrial life the European Space Agency ESA launched in 2004 the spacecraft Rosetta towards comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko . This comet belongs to the Jupiter family with an aphelion at 5.5 AU and a perihelion at 1.25 AU. Its orbital period is 6.5 y. In order to match the comet’s orbit Rosetta had to flyby three times the Earth and once Mars to arrive at the comet more than 10 years after launch in August 2014. Subsequently, Rosetta flew with the comet around the Sun from 3.6 AU to perihelion and out again to 3.8 AU, sometimes as close as 10 km from the comet centre. This allowed a thorough investigation of the comet from up close during the different phases of its orbit.

On board Rosetta was the ROSINA (Rosetta Orbiter Sensor for Ion and Neutral Analysis) suite consisting of two mass spectrometers (DFMS and RTOF) and the cometary pressure sensor COPS [5]. These sensors were built to analyse the composition of the cometary atmosphere along its path around the Sun, encountering very low densities for large heliocentric distances to much more violent outgassing during perihelion.

ROSINA measured almost continuously during more than two years. Most of the time, water was the dominant component of the cometary coma. However, due to its peculiar shape and the tilted rotation axis of the comet, the coma was very heterogeneous and varying along the orbit. Apart from water, ROSINA identified many more simple molecules like CO, CO2, HCN, CH4 and NH3. But it detected also many complex organics like aliphatic carbon chains, alcohols with up to five C atoms and amines [6]. Most surprisingly it detected abundant O2 [7]. O2 is very reactive and was believed to have been non-existent in the protosolar nebula. Very few detections of O2 outside the Earth have been made so far. The very good correlation with water led to the finding, that O2 was most probably formed in the presolar stage due to radiolysis of water ice and that the water ice survived the solar system formation unchanged.

In March 2015 Rosetta performed a close flyby over the comet surface of just 15 km from the comet centre. During this flyby, dust production was high. In the mass spectra of ROSINA DFMS from this flyby an analysis of the mass spectrometry data of ROSINA DFMS revealed two mass peaks at mass 75 Da, one of which was identified as coming from the amino acid glycine. The exact mass of glycine is 75.0315 Da. There are several isomers on the exact same mass. In mass spectrometry, where ionization of the neutrals is done by electron impact, isomers can be distinguished by their fragmentation pattern as molecules are not only ionized to yield the parent ion, but also dissociate into ionized fragments according to the structure of a molecule. All of the isomers of glycine could be ruled out by looking at the specific fragmentation pattern from the electron impact ionisation in the ion source of DFMS.
Figure 1: (click on the image to view with higher resolution) a mass spectrum of mass 75 Da, taken by ROSINA/DFMS on March 28, 2015, integrated over 160 s at a distance of ~20 km from the comet.

Figure 1 shows a sample mass spectrum at 75 Da. The number of ionized particles registered on the detector is given as a function of the position on the detector which corresponds to m/z. The mass resolution of DFMS m/Δm is ~9000 at FWHM for mass 28 and decreases with increasing mass. Also on mass 75 Da we find C3H7O2 (75.0441 Da) which might be a fragment of propylene glycol (C3H8O2) or any of its isomers or/and of even heavier species like butanediol (C4H10O2). Only a thorough analysis of all fragments can identify the parent of C3H7O2. Details on the data analysis for ROSINA DFMS can be found in Ref.[6].

To detect glycine in the coma of 67P was quite surprising as glycine has a sublimation temperature of 140°C (8), a lot higher than the comet surface (9). Analysis of the flyby revealed that the density of glycine did not follow the expected 1/r2 behaviour, which led to the conclusion that glycine sublimated from dust grains in the coma, which can become much hotter due to their small sizes of a few μm and their low albedo of a few % [10].

The way to form glycine on dust grains has been investigated by [11-13]. It can be formed from the precursor molecule methylamine which was also found in the mass spectra of DFMS together with CO2. It is up to now the only amino acid where a path for formation is known without involving liquid water. It is therefore not surprising that a search for other amino acids like e.g. alanine was unsuccessful, as the comet most probably never had liquid water.

As glycine is probably mostly on dust grains and its sublimation temperature is high, it is not possible to determine the glycine abundance in the nucleus. The abundance in the coma varies relative to water between 0 and 0.0025. Glycine is not always detected in the spectra of DFMS. We preferentially see a signal from glycine during the perihelion passage between spring 2015 and September 2015 and only if the spacecraft was close enough to the comet.

The precursor molecules methylamine and ethylamine are seen in the mass spectra only when glycine also is detected. The three molecules seem to be closely related which is not surprising. Chemical models show that glycine could form on dust grains via three radical-addition mechanisms at temperatures from 40-120 K [11] which is compatible with temperatures in hot cores. Glycine can also be formed involving photochemistry and CO2 [13]. In both cases methylamine is part of the process.

Another important species for living organisms is phosphorous found in adenosine triphosphate (ATP), in the backbone of DNA and RNA, and in cell membranes. The phosphorous atom with a mass of 30.9732 Da was detected by DFMS already in October 2014. However, the search for the parent (PH3, PO, PN or HCP) was unsuccessful although these species have been detected in the interstellar medium [14-17]. This is mostly due to overlaps in the mass spectra with other species, very often with abundant sulphur bearing species.

Many of the molecules found by ROSINA DFMS in the coma of comet 67P are compatible with the idea that comets delivered key molecules for prebiotic chemistry throughout the solar system and in particular to the early Earth [18] increasing drastically the concentration of life-related chemicals by impact on a closed water body. The fact that glycine was most probably formed on dust grains in the presolar stage also makes these molecules somehow universal, which means that what happened in the solar system could probably happen elsewhere in the Universe.

This article is based on our work published in 'Science Advances', 2016 [19].

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