|Illustration of the programmable photonic circuit. Photons enter from the left, are processed and exit to the right. The connector at the centre top of the circuit is to the external control system. (Courtesy: Jacques Carolan et al./Science).|
Note: "Smooth operator" is in the link title of the above photo in the article. No insult or creative infringement to Helen Folasade Adu (the singer Sade) was intended.
A group of physicists in the UK has made a programmable photonic circuit that can be used to carry out any kind of linear optics operation. The researchers say that the device provides experimental proof of a long-standing theory in quantum information, and could help speed the development of photonic quantum computers, as well as establishing whether quantum computers are fundamentally different from their classical counterparts.
The research builds on work carried out back in 1897 by German mathematician Adolf Hurwitz, who showed how a matrix of complex numbers known as a unitary operator can be built up from smaller 2 × 2 matrices. A unitary operator provides a mathematical description of a linear optical circuit. This is any circuit that uses fairly standard optical components – such as mirrors, half-silvered mirrors and phase shifters – to route photons and cause them to interfere with one other. The operator has as many rows as there are output ports in the circuit and as many columns as there are input ports. With only one photon in the circuit, the probability that it travels from a particular input to a particular output is given by the square of the corresponding matrix entry.
Physics World: Physicists build universal optics chip, Edwin Cartlidge