4 Trends from Photonics for Quantum 2022

By Damon Diehl, PhD, Technology Program Manager

Don Figer at Photonics for Quantum 2022
Don Figer at Photonics for Quantum 2022

“The future is now” was the fundamental message of the SPIE Photonics for Quantum 2022 conference at Rochester Institute of Technology, which ran from June 6 to June 9. The conference was launched four years ago by conference chair Dr. Don Figer, who is also the founder of RIT’s Future Photon Initiative.

Photonics for Quantum provides a platform for thought leaders in what has become known as “Quantum 2.0” — the accelerating field of creating commercial products from quantum technologies that have been all but science fiction for a century. Quantum 2.0 is perched to transform computation, communications, and encryption with quantum computers that can solve problems that would take billions of years transmitting data over secure communications networks that are essentially uncrackable… even by quantum computers. Photonics is at the heart of these advances.

Although Photonics for Quantum was a whirlwind of diverse information about quantum engineering, four trends stood out.

Integrated Photonics

The long-standing goal of photonics is the capability to place entire optical systems onto single chips, including light sources, processors, and photon detectors. Many people talked about miniaturizing these standard optical components to the nanoscale. High on the wish list is nano-scale lasers embedded in photonic circuits, which, as it turns out, is precisely the product under development by Luminate cohort 4 runner-up, Iris Light Technologies.

Public-Access Quantum Computers

Quantum computers are no longer just for university scientists. You (yes, you!) can run experiments on a quantum computer at Xanadu in Toronto for free. If you need more time, you can buy it on Amazon.com… because does something really exist if it isn’t for sale on Amazon?

Long-Distance Quantum Networks

Underneath Brooklyn lies nearly 70 kilometers of optical fiber carrying single photons between Brookhaven National Lab and Stony Brook University, which Luminate cohort 4 member Qunnect uses as the testbed for their room-temperature quantum communications products. Impressive as that is, the United States is lagging far behind China, which has a 7,000 km quantum communication network spanning most of the country and includes two satellites.

Quantum Education

No engineering field can exist without degree programs to train those engineers. The Rochester Institute of Technology will be offering a minor in Quantum Engineering starting autumn 2022. Just as important, Three Rivers Community College’s Laser and Fiber Optics program is establishing a new program to train a new generation of technicians to manufacture and maintain quantum products.

It’s been inspiring to watch the Photonics for Quantum conference grow from its modest beginning in 2019 into an international conference attracting people from around the world, and it will be interesting to see what the future holds at Photonics for Quantum 2023.