Breakthrough paves the way for photonic observation at the ultimate quantum limit

Photonic chip with a microring resonator nano manufactured in a commercial foundry. Credit: Joel Tasker, QET Labs

A team of physicists led by Bristol has found a way to use mass-produced photonic sensors at the quantum limit. This breakthrough paves the way for practical applications such as monitoring greenhouse gases and detecting cancer.

Sensors are an integral part of our daily lives. Although they often go unnoticed, sensors provide crucial information that is essential for: modern healthcare, security and environmental monitoring. Modern cars alone contain more than 100 sensors and this number will only increase.

Quantum sensing is poised to revolutionize today’s sensors, vastly improving the performance they can achieve. More accurate, faster and more reliable measurements of physical quantities can have a transformative effect on every field of science and technology, including our daily lives.

However, the majority of quantum detection schemes are based on special entangled or compressed states of light or matter that are difficult to generate and detect. This is a major obstacle to harnessing the full power of quantum-constrained sensors and deploying them in real-world scenarios.

In a paper published in Physical Assessment LettersA team of physicists from the Universities of Bristol, Bath and Warwick has shown that it is possible to make highly accurate measurements of key physical properties without the need for advanced quantum states of light and detection schemes.

The key to this breakthrough is the use of ring resonators – small circuit structures that loop light into a loop and maximize interaction with the studied sample. Importantly, ring resonators can be mass manufactured using the same processes as the chips in our computers and smartphones.

Alex Belsley, Quantum Engineering Technology Labs (QET Labs) Ph.D. student and lead author of the work, said: “We are one step closer to all integrated photonic sensors working at the detection limits imposed by quantum mechanics

Using this technology to detect absorption or refractive index changes, a wide variety of materials and biochemical samples can be identified and characterized, with current applications of monitoring greenhouse gases to cancer detection.

Associate Professor Jonathan Matthews, co-director of QETLabs and co-author of the work, said: “We are very excited about the opportunities this result presents: we now know how to use mass production processes to develop chip-scale photonic sensors that work. at the quantum limit

Physicists develop quantum-enhanced sensors for real-life applications

More information:
Alexandre Belsley et al, Advantage of coherent states in ring resonators over any Quantum Probe Single-Pass Absorption Estimation Strategy, Physical Assessment Letters (2022). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.128.230501

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