Silicon Chip Produces Tunable Photon Pairs

A silicon photonic chip that emits knotted photon pairs in a controlled fashion could one day enable quantum transceivers. Developed at the University of California, San Diego, the chip is pumped by a telecommunications-grade low-power diode laser. Through a filter, the chip produces two daughter photons for each pair of photons it absorbs. One of the daughter photons will have a higher frequency than the input photons, and the other will have a lower frequency; their total frequency will be the same as that of the parent photons.

During the experiments, the silicon photonic chip was placed on a temperature-controlled stage. Fibers were used to couple the optical pump beam to one side of the chip and extract the generated photon pair from the other side. “Silicon is known to be a poor light-emitting material — there is no silicon diode laser, for example, despite many decades of research,” said Professor Dr. Shayan Mookherjea. “However, if you want to make a chip that emits quantum light such as pairs of single photons which are entwined in some quantum mechanical properties, and you want to do it at room temperature so that the chip can be widely used, then it turns out that silicon is actually quite a good material for generating photons.”

The chip’s light-changing process, called spontaneous optical nonlinear mixing (SONM), has been verified in a number of materials including glass fibers, crystals and semiconductors like silicon. “One thing you have to do, though, is to pattern the silicon into waveguides and micro resonators which improve the optical strength at specific wavelengths,” said postdoctoral researcher Marc Savanier. “A piece of silicon by itself is not going to have a very high SONM coefficient and it won’t generate a measurable number of entangled photon pairs.”

 

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