Apr 28, 2022
Industry Insights: Photonics and Quantum Technologies
Over the past several years, quantum technology has seen significant investments from both the private and public sector. The idea of quantum computing has been around for decades – since physicist Paul Benioff first proposed a quantum mechanical model of the Turing machine in 19801 – but only (relatively) recently have companies such as IBM2 and Toshiba3 been able to bring to market key technologies that enable this vision. Leadership in quantum technology is considered to be of key strategic importance to governments across the world, and is being supported through initiatives in the US4, EMEA5,6, and beyond.
Recently I had the pleasure of attending a workshop hosted by Optica on the current state of quantum technologies and the role of integrated photonics in quantum communication and quantum computing7. This workshop was yet another example of how quantum technology has become a mainstream topic for the optics and photonics industry, as demonstrated by events such as SPIE Quantum West8 and the World of Quantum exhibition at Laser World of Photonics9. As discussed throughout the Optica workshop, photonic integrated circuits (PICs) offer significant potential for quantum technologies for many of the same reasons that they are of value to other optical applications: they allow systems to be developed with smaller size, weight and power while offering lower component and assembly costs and increased robustness and reproducibility as the result of leveraging standard fabrication methods used in lithography and other semiconductor manufacturing processes. During a session on the current state of integrated photonic devices for quantum communications and computing10, another benefit of integrated photonics was discussed by Zachary Vernon from Xanadu: in many cases, they allow much of the system to operate at room temperature rather than at cryogenic conditions.
A comprehensive overview of the various components needed to support the quantum networks used in quantum communication and computing was presented by Mark Wippich of Make Photonics Work in the Day 2 keynote of the Optica workshop11. These include quantum key distribution (QKD) and quantum memory, quantum repeaters and quantum transduction. QKDs can be used for quantum-secured communications today, and progress is being made in using these to build quantum-secured networkse.g.,12. Earlier in the workshop Andrew Shields from Toshiba reviewed development of the first prototype of a QKD based on integrated photonics13, and both Mark and Andrew (along with other presenters throughout the event) highlighted the role that PICs can play in the future development of quantum networks. Although many challenges exist with using PICs for quantum technologies – such as the inherently more complex architectures required for such systems – the industry will continue pushing towards photonics-based solutions for quantum given the significant benefits that such systems offer.
Beyond integrated photonics, laser systems also play a critical role in the development of quantum technologies14,15. Although lasers are primarily used in generating and controlling qubits for quantum systems, an interesting talk at the Optica workshop from Hamid Hemmati of Viasat discussed another use for lasers - namely for space-based communications that can be used to enable long-distance quantum communication. This serves yet another example of how ubiquitous optics and photonics are in the development of advanced technologies such as quantum. With optics and photonics, anything is truly possible!
Zemax an Ansys Company