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Sep 3, 2020

Observing the path less traveled boosts quantum gain

Posted by in category: quantum physics

When probing the subtle effects of quantum mechanics, all the parameters in the system and its measurements need to be finely tuned to observe the result you are hoping for. So what happens when you gear everything towards detecting what you least expect? Researchers at MIT and Purdue University in the U.S. took just this approach and found they could amplify quantum signals by a factor of 30 while conditionally changing the relative phase of a photon from π/80 to π/2. The results could provide the missing link that nudges a number of quantum network technologies closer to practical use.

Quantum technology protocols generally aim to maximize interaction strengths, but preparing these entangled systems can be very difficult. “We asked the question, can we turn weak interactions into very strong interactions somehow?” explains Vladan Vuletic, Wolf Professor of Physics at MIT. “You can, and the price is, they don’t happen often.”

The effects Vuletic and colleagues observe hinge on the factors that feed into the “expectation values” of quantum experiments. Expectation values describe the average outcome of a quantum scenario and equate to the product of each possible value and its probability. Vuletic and his collaborators focused their studies on scenarios where the average is dominated by , like a lottery where everyone wins a small amount on average, although in fact, just a few people win huge amounts. In quantum mechanics, light also sometimes takes the path less traveled, and as the researchers show, this really can make all the difference.

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