• Tue. Nov 28th, 2023

    Critical Thought

    Critical thoughts on quantum technologies

    A Breakthrough in Quantum Light Emission: Harnessing the Power of Chiral Photons

    BySam Figg

    Nov 20, 2023
    A Breakthrough in Quantum Light Emission: Harnessing the Power of Chiral Photons

    Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have achieved a groundbreaking milestone in quantum light emission. By leveraging a unique method, they have successfully developed a novel source that generates a steady stream of single photons with circular polarization. This advancement holds immense potential for quantum information and communication applications, paving the way for future breakthroughs in fields like quantum cryptography.

    Until now, the production of circularly polarized light required the use of strong external magnetic fields or intricate photonic structures. However, the Los Alamos team has managed to circumvent these challenges by combining two atomically thin materials through a proximity-effect approach. This approach offers several advantages, including low-cost fabrication and improved reliability.

    The research team accomplished this feat by stacking a monolayer semiconductor, tungsten diselenide, onto a magnetic semiconductor known as nickel-phosphorus trisulfide. Using atomic force microscopy, they created nanometer-scale indentations on the thin stack, resulting in over 200 tiny depressions across the material. These indentations played a dual role in the process, creating potential energy wells that emitted streams of single photons and disrupting the magnetic characteristics of the nickel-phosphorus trisulfide to induce circular polarization.

    To validate their findings, the scientists conducted high magnetic field optical spectroscopy tests at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory’s Pulsed Field Facility in Los Alamos. Additionally, they collaborated with researchers from the University of Basel in Switzerland to measure the local magnetic moments generated by the nanoindentations.

    These groundbreaking experiments successfully demonstrated the ability to manipulate the polarization state of a single photon stream. Looking ahead, the team aims to explore the application of electrical or microwave stimulation to alter the circular polarization of the single photons. This breakthrough could enable the encryption of quantum data into the photon stream, opening up new possibilities for secure quantum communication.

    Moreover, this research lays the foundation for the development of photonic circuits and waveguides, which are miniature channels for light transmission. By connecting the photon stream to these circuits, scientists can establish a robust and secure quantum internet.

    In conclusion, the team at Los Alamos National Laboratory has achieved a significant milestone in quantum light emission. Their breakthrough technique for generating chiral quantum light opens up exciting possibilities for quantum information and communication. With further advancements in this field, we can look forward to a future where quantum technologies revolutionize various aspects of our lives.


    1. What is circularly polarized light?

      Circularly polarized light refers to a type of light where the electric field vector rotates in a circular motion as the light propagates. This rotation can occur in either a clockwise (right-handed) or counterclockwise (left-handed) direction.

    2. What is quantum cryptography?

      Quantum cryptography is a field that focuses on developing secure communication protocols based on the principles of quantum mechanics. It utilizes the unique properties of quantum systems, such as the ability to encode information in quantum states, to ensure secure and tamper-proof communication.

    3. What is a photon?

      A photon is the fundamental particle of light. It carries electromagnetic energy and exhibits both wave-like and particle-like properties. In the context of quantum technologies, single photons are often used to encode and transmit quantum information.

    4. What is the proximity-effect approach?

      The proximity-effect approach involves bringing two materials in close proximity to influence their properties. In the context of this research, it refers to stacking atomically thin semiconductor layers to create a chiral quantum light source.