Spontaneous Parametric Downconversion

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Quantum Optics and Spontaneous Parametric Downconversion

The goal of this project is to use a series table-top laser-based optics experiments to investigate various quantum mechanical phenomena. These include, but are not limited to: quantization of the electric field (proof of the existence of photons), single-photon interference, violation of Bell inequalities, and quantum information measurement effects.

Physics Background

Spontaneous parametric downconversion (SPDC) is a non-linear optical process that takes place with the assistance of specially-engineered optical crystals. These optical crystals are designed with specific index of refraction properties along given crystalline axis. When light of a specific frequency is incident upon the lattice, it will experience preferential absorption and re-emission as a result of this design. This will result in an overall "splitting" of one incident light beam into two; signal and idler beams, at some well-defined angle. The quanta of light will experience a downconversion but within this the momentum and energy of the beam is conserved in the signal and idler beams. The net effect of this can be seen by looking at the bulk beam properties.

In a project-specific example, consider a 405nm wavelength laser is incident upon a downconversion crystal. The net effect of the crystal refraction and re-emission results in two output beams of 810nm. The incident beam has been "downconverted" to two output beams of half-the energy and twice the wavelength. See figure 1 for an illustration, and the WikiPedia article for more detail [1].

[fig 1 SPDC diagram]


If we reduce the incident beam to a series of single photons, whose existence is a central postulate of quantum theory, the above description need only be slightly altered. A single photon incident on the crystalline lattice has a certain probability of being downconverted via the interaction with the lattice (roughly 1 in 10^12)[2]. When this conversion takes place, the single photon, with its inherent polarization properties, is converted into a pair of polarization entangled photons at half the energy and wavelength and the same polarization but orthogonal to the input beam polarization.


This follows the same characteristic downconversion as the Type I but with one very crucial difference. The difference being the orientation of the signal and idler beam polarization. In Type II downconversion the polarizations of the output beams are now orthogonal to one another with some overlap in their respective electric fields so that there is a possibility for photon interaction unlike that of Type I where there is no possibility for interaction after the downconversion crystal. The way one sets their experiment for Type I or Type II downconversion is the crystal lattice itself, the lattice will be cut in such a way that the axis with varying indices of refraction will favor one type over the other.

Experimental Setup

In our experiment we started with a 405nm blue diode pump laser, then we put the laser through an iris and then a linear polarizer to ensure horizontal polarization. Once through the polarizer the laser was then pushed through a half wave plate in order to change the polarization of the beam from horizontal to vertical polarization then the laser was reflected off of two mirrors such that the light wold be incident on the downconversion crystal. After the beam passed through the crystal the beam still propagated an so then a beam blocker was placed down the path of the beam. For the two output beams, the signal and idler beam, they traveled at an angle of 3 degrees off axis with respect to the input beam. These two beams would then travel down their respective legs and reach a detector that would record their photon counts as well as the coincidence between them.

As far as experimentation went we varied the angle of the legs so that we could verify that the maximum count occurred at 3 degrees. After that measurement we added some more components to the experiment. We then put the legs back to the maximum angle that we found, which will be discussed in results, and then we placed a 50/50 polarizing beam splitter along the idler beam in front of the B detector. We also placed another detector, B' the same distance for the crystal but at a 90 degree angle from detector B in such a way that matched the orientation of the polarizing beam splitter. From here we were able to explicitly show certain characteristics of light, which will also be discussed in results.


External Resources


SPDC Web Page