In Case You Missed It at FiO+LS and Quantum 2.0

Damon Diehl, PhD, Technology Program Manager, Luminate

FiO+LS and Quantum 2.0 ConferenceThe OSA Frontiers in Optics and Laser Science APS/DLS (FiO+LS) conference, which ran from September 14 to 17, was completely online this year as a free event. Every year FiO+LS features an amazing array of research presentations, plenary talks, and featured speakers. Of specific interest is that OSA debuted the new “Quantum 2.0” conference as a concurrent event with FiO+LS!

Without playing favorites, here are four papers that embody “frontiers in optics.”

Longer-distance secure quantum communication

The heart of encrypted communication is the exchange of secure, randomized keys between users for encrypting and decrypting online data. Quantum key distribution (QKD) can theoretically offer impenetrable encryption by using the quantum properties of light to generate secure random keys. Truly impenetrable QKD assumes perfect state preparation, and that can be a great challenge in practice. QKD has been demonstrated over relatively long distances in optical fibers (over 2,500 km with the Micius satellite), but this is difficult to accomplish with high transmission rates while maintaining security. Some countermeasures have been put forward. Measurement-device-independent QKD (MDI-QKD) is among the most secure and practical because it is immune to attacks directed at the detection devices. The research group of Qin Yang of Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications have developed an experimental setup that embodies a practical scheme for implementing MDI-QKD under current technology. With their setup, they demonstrated real-world key rates of 10-7 bits /pulse over a record-breaking 170 km, and theoretical calculations show secure transmission could be possible over distances up to 200 kilometers!

More rugged quantum computer architectures

Junki Kim and co-workers from Duke University presented new ways of designing and implementing optical systems that fundamentally eliminate mechanical and thermal instabilities of trapped-ion quantum computers. The hardware design is scalable up to 32 qubits and the laser systems are sturdy enough to mount in equipment racks rather than optical tables. This is an enormous step toward creating quantum computers with “turn-key” practicality.

Quantum light source mass production

Efforts to develop compact chip-based quantum computers have been hampered because it is difficult to mass produce single-photon light sources capable of creating “high-quality” photons suitable for carrying qubit data. It would be ideal if single-photon sources could be fabricated using the same CMOS processes used to make today’s computer chips. Stefano Paesani of the University of Bristol presented work on a new single-photon source utilizing a multi-mode silicon waveguide on standard silicon-on-insulator. The researchers fabricated these single-photon devices using CMOS-compatible lithography processes on a commercial wafer. This demonstrates a major step toward mass production of single photon sources, enabling on-chip quantum operations using photons at an unprecedented level of precision. Such technologies promise enormous computational quantum speed-ups, unconditionally secure communications, and quantum-enhanced sensors.

More efficient drug discovery

Proteases break down the peptide bonds that hold proteins together; they are linked to diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and arthritis. Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) is highly effective at protease monitoring, but the systems are bulky. Nina Turk from the IMEC research center at Ghent University in Belgium, in collaboration with researchers at the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology (VIB), presented a new method to perform SERS using waveguides that are small enough to be incorporated into lab-on-a-chip-based handheld devices! The work paves the way to real-time, lab-on-a-chip protease monitoring, which could enable high-throughput assays for pharmacological drug discovery.

These four papers are only a sample from the conference, but they give an idea of how optics and quantum research are major drivers on the frontiers across a range of disciplines, helping us to create technologies that are smarter, faster, and increasingly ubiquitous. This event was definitely an auspicious launch for Quantum 2.0, and it’s perhaps appropriate that this conference debuted into this indeterminate world of conferences that exist in the “mixed quantum state” of both virtual and real events. I can’t wait to see what next year holds!


FiO+LS and Quantum 2.0 presentation recordings are available for registrants for on-demand viewing at the following links.


Quantum 2.0: