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Quantum Optics Experiments with Single Photons for Undergraduate Laboratories

Quantum Optics Experiments with Single Photons for Undergraduate Laboratories,Enrique J. Galvez,Mark Beck

Quantum Optics Experiments with Single Photons for Undergraduate Laboratories   (Citations: 1)
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We present new results of interference experiments for undergraduates that underscore the quantum nature of the light. The experiments use parametric down-conversion to generate pairs of correlated photons. The experiments involve one- and two-photon interference schemes that rely on first and second-order coherence effects. They can be used as a complement to teaching quantum mechanics or quantum optics. ©2007 Optical Society of America OCIS codes: (000.2060) Education, (270.0270) Quantum optics. Laboratories with correlated photons are important because they underscore fundamental concepts of quantum mechanics. They allow students to learn quantum mechanics via experimentation and thus start their quantum physics education from a position where they can gain valuable physical intuition. Experiments on interference of light at the single-photon limit serve as exercises in quantum mechanical concepts and algebra. Thus they constitute direct applications of a topic that is otherwise purely theoretical and abstract. An interesting feature of these types of experiments is that they give the instructor the flexibility to tailor the explanation of the results to his or her quantum mechanical formalism. We use an increasingly popular source of correlated photons: spontaneous parametric down conversion. It consists of sending a pump laser beam to a nonlinear crystal to produce photon pairs that are correlated in time, energy, momentum and polarization. The pairs can be used as a source of non-classical light. In some cases one photon of a pair heralds the other one going through an interferometer, and in other cases both photons go through the interferometer for demonstrating richer quantum mechanical effects. Many experiments with correlated photons, in particular the ones presented in this article, cannot be reproduced by an attenuated source of light. With special modifications the source can produce photon pairs entangled in polarization, and thus enabling tests of Bell's inequalities (3,6,7). In previous publications we presented interference experiments for use in undergraduate laboratories (1,2,5). In this article we expand upon some of those reports with the results of more recent work. In Sec. 2 we present an experiment that combines single-photon interference in a polarization interferometer with the "single-photon test." The latter is a second order coherence correlation test that reveals, and even proves, the quantum nature of the photon. In Sec. 3 we follow with a two-photon interference experiment where we study the photon correlations coming off the two ports of a Mach-Zehnder interferometer.
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