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The breakthrough paves the way for photon sensing at the final quantum limit

The breakthrough paves the way for photon sensing at the final quantum limit

Sensors are an integral part of our daily lives. Although often unnoticed, sensors provide critical information essential to modern healthcare, security, and environmental monitoring. Modern cars alone have more than 100 sensors and that number will only increase.

Quantum sensing is poised to revolutionize today’s sensors, dramatically increasing the performance they can achieve. More accurate, rapid, and reliable measurements of physical quantities can have a transformative effect in all areas of science and technology, including our daily lives.

However, the majority of quantum sensing schemes rely 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 finite quantum sensors and deploying them in real-world scenarios.

In a paper published today, a team of physicists from the Universities of Bristol, Bath and Warwick show that it is possible to make high-resolution measurements of important physical properties without the need for complex quantum states of light and detection patterns.

Key to this breakthrough is the use of ring resonators – tiny racetrack structures that direct light into a ring and increase its interaction with the sample under study. Importantly, toroidal resonators can be mass-produced using the same processes as the chips in our computers and smartphones.

“We are approaching all-integrated optical sensors that operate within the detection limits imposed by quantum mechanics,” said Alex Belsley, a doctoral student at Quantum Engineering Technology Laboratories (QET Labs) and lead author of the work.

This technology can be used to detect changes in absorption or refractive index to identify and characterize a wide variety of materials and biochemical samples, with topical applications ranging from greenhouse gases to greenhouse monitoring to cancer detection.

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Associate Professor Jonathan Matthews, co-director of QET Labs and co-author of the work said: “We are really excited about the opportunities this result presents: we now know how to use manufacturable sequential processes to design optical sensors in the chip-scale that operates at the quantum limit.”

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Materials offered by University of Bristol. Note: Content can be modified according to style and length.