Physics

At Phys.org: Optical foundations illuminated by quantum light

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Optics, the study of light, is one of the oldest fields in physics and has never ceased to surprise researchers. Although the classical description of light as a wave phenomenon is rarely questioned, the physical origins of some optical effects are. A team of researchers at Tampere University have brought the discussion on one fundamental wave effect, the debate around the anomalous behavior of focused light waves, to the quantum domain.

The researchers have been able to show that quantum waves behave significantly differently from their classical counterparts and can be used to increase the precision of distance measurements. Their findings also add to the discussion on physical origin of the anomalous focusing behavior. The results are now published in Nature Photonics.

“Interestingly, we started with an idea based on our earlier results and set out to structure quantum light for enhanced measurement precision. However, we then realized that the underlying physics of this application also contributes to the long debate about the origins of the Gouy phase anomaly of focused light fields,” explains Robert Fickler, group leader of the Experimental Quantum Optics group at Tampere University.

Quantum waves behave differently but point to the same origin

Over the last decades, methods for structuring light fields down on the single photon level have vastly matured and led to a myriad of novel findings. In addition, a better of optics’ foundations has been achieved. However, the physical origin of why light behaves in such an unexpected way when going through a focus, the so-called Gouy phase anomaly, is still often debated. This is despite its widespread use and importance in optical systems. The novelty of the current study is now to put the effect into the quantum domain.

“When developing the theory to describe our experimental results, we realized (after a long debate) that the Gouy phase for quantum light is not only different than the standard one, but its origin can be linked to another quantum effect. This is just like what was speculated in an earlier work,” adds Doctoral researcher Markus Hiekkamäki, leading author of the study.

In the quantum domain, the anomalous behavior is sped up when compared to classical light. As the Gouy phase behavior can be used to determine the distance a beam of light has propagated, the speed up of the quantum Gouy phase could allow for an improvement in the precision of measuring distances.

With this new understanding at hand, the researchers are planning to develop novel techniques to enhance their measurement abilities such that it will be possible to measure more complex beams of structured photons. The team expects that this will help them push forward the application of the observed effect, and potentially bring to light more differences between quantum and classical light fields.

Phys.org

The wave-particle duality of light demonstrates that paradoxes exist in physical nature–not everything can be broken down in a reductionistic manner to an unambiguous single classification.

3 Replies to “At Phys.org: Optical foundations illuminated by quantum light

  1. 1
    Querius says:

    I’m breathlessly awaiting comments that introduce free will, predestination, theology, abortion, the war in Ukraine, or any other completely irrelevant-but-inflammatory topic.

    -Q

  2. 2
    Querius says:

    Hmm. I’m not usually the first to comment, but maybe this post is different in that it requires knowledge of the Gouy Phase Shift
    https://www.rp-photonics.com/gouy_phase_shift.html

    . . . plus Gaussian Beams
    https://www.rp-photonics.com/gaussian_beams.html

    . . . which don’t immediately provide an easy way to hijack the topic.

    But, maybe I can find a way!

    The researchers have been able to show that quantum waves behave significantly differently from their classical counterparts and can be used to increase the precision of distance measurements.

    Ok, so focused light waves have a different/shifted waveform as a probability wave. This might be comparable to the socially focused probability waveform of gender distributions as expressed in modern definitions and usage.

    “Squirrel!”

    -Q

  3. 3
    relatd says:

    “The wave-particle duality of light demonstrates that paradoxes exist in physical nature–not everything can be broken down in a reductionistic manner to an unambiguous single classification.”

    Paradox is the wrong word. Light can behave as a particle and a wave. The FACT that it can do both is a FACT. Just because “quantum waves” behave differently does not matter from the standpoint of application. You discover what everything does and you exploit it, which is happening right now. Why certain waves, quantum or classical, behave as they do can be figured out later. This is mostly trial and error using classic macro tools and inventing new tools for analyzing quantum effects and reactions.

    I picture a group of specialists in various fields tackling the discoveries from their areas of specialty, looking at the work of others outside of their respective fields, and comparing notes. And that is exactly where the field of quantum mechanics stands today. Those who want to figure out the math and nail down certain details care about only one thing: practical, money-making applications. That’s it.

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