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Fraunhofers work on QUILT to cover quantum opportunities

01 May 2018

Novel management of photons and quantum states will create multiple modern applications, say German research groups.

Starting in October 2017, six Fraunhofer institutes announced plans to join forces to launch a research and development project entitled QUILT Lighthouse – standing for Quantum Methods for Advanced Imaging Solutions. One component group, scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT), are developing what they call “robust, marketable photon sources for imaging processes based on quantum technology”.

The official project started on March 1, 2018, in Berlin and the project will last three years. In an update announcement published last week, ILT described the progress with QUILT, stating, “Conceivable areas of application of this project can be found in medical or measuring technology, in which new areas of the electromagnetic spectrum can be tapped and the limits of imaging extended.

“Silicon-based transistors, lasers and GPS are increasingly in demand in today’s high-tech photonics applications. These are just a few of the many applications that emerged from the first generation of quantum technologies based on collective particle phenomena in quantum physics. A second quantum revolution will open up new possibilities: quantum physical systems of photons, can now be manipulated for targeted and future use in various applications.”

Quantum photonics at AKL18

Further information on the potential of quantum photonics for these sorts of applications is presented at this week’s AKL'18 – International Laser Technology Congress taking place in Aachen, Germany (Wednesday May 2 - Friday May 4th). QUILT’s latest results will be presented by Prof. Ronald Hanson from QuTech, Dr. Robert Rölver of Robert Bosch and Dr. Thierry Debuisschert of Thales Research & Technology on May 4, 2018 in the session “Laser Beam Sources”.

In the QUILT Lighthouse Project, six Fraunhofer Institutes (detailed below) are combining their expertise in quantum imaging and related technologies to transition their findings from basic research into market-oriented applications.

Prof. Andreas Tünnermann, director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF, and Prof. Karsten Buse, director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Physical Measurement Techniques IPM, are coordinating the joint project, which is funded by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft overall group.

“One goal of the Lighthouse Project is to evaluate quantum-technological concepts that are currently still in the early stages of development in view of their market and application potential and to develop rewarding approaches as to their technological maturity,” said Dr. Bernd Jungbluth, group manager at Fraunhofer ILT.

Each of the project partners will be investigating specific, largely untapped wavelength ranges and working closely with world-renowned groups from basic research, such as the Institute of Quantum Optics and Quantum Information of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light.

New wavelengths

The ILT scientists are targeting mid-infrared wavelengths for applications in future quantum imaging. In this range, also known as the “fingerprint area”, many substances have characteristic absorption lines. However, suitable detectors are technically complex, expensive and limited by low sensitivity.

But thanks to the phenomenon of entanglement, corresponding photons can be used for measurements in the “fingerprint” region. For this purpose, a nonlinear optical crystal – a crystal with special physical properties – is excited with a laser. In this process, individual photons of the laser are converted in a parametric process into pairs of entangled photons, which can have different wavelengths.

Entangled means that the two photons generated are considered to be a single quantum system and their properties are, therefore, highly correlated. When a property of one of two partners is measured, properties of the second can immediately be derived.

Fraunhofer ILT is currently developing a spontaneous parametric down-conversion source for generating entangled photons for later quantum imaging. The source will produce a signal wave that can be easily detected with silicon technology and a second wavelength in the MIR for interaction with the target object.

Fraunhofer ILT says it has already collected a great deal of know-how on the parametric processes and materials it has developed, such as optical parametric oscillators. Since the materials are well-understood, they will be designed as very thin crystals for new quantum technologies.

Florian Elsen, project manager for QUILT at ILT, commented, “Quantum imaging with low photon numbers could enable better signal-to-noise ratios compared to traditional measurement situations, or applications in which high intensities are detrimental”.

QUILT project partners

  • Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems IMS
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Physical Measurement Techniques IPM
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM
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