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17 december 2018

Closed FOM programme


Number 124.
Title Nanoscale quantum optics (NQO)
Executive organisational unit BUW
Programme management Prof.dr. A. Fiore
Duration 2011-2016
Cost estimate M€ 3.0

This programme aims at investigating quantum optical processes on the deep subwavelength scale, that is in structures where the optical field shows strong spatial variations on <100 nm scale, well below the diffraction limit. We will study spontaneous and stimulated light emission, optical detection and optical nonlinearities at the nanoscale and at the single-quantum level.

Background, relevance and implementation
The investigation of atom-photon interaction is an important topic in modern physics and represents the basis for virtually all optical technologies. In particular, quantum optics has been an ideal playground for testing the foundations of quantum mechanics as well as novel ideas for quantum information processing using photons. So far, quantum optical experiments have been performed with fields, which are either freely-propagating or confined in optical cavities of the scale of one or few wavelengths, as limited by diffraction. This programme aims at investigating for the first time quantum optical processes on the deep subwavelength scale. At this length scale, the basic assumptions and approximations used to describe radiative processes in the solid-state break down as the field length scales become comparable to excitonic wavefunctions in semiconductor nanostructures. Our fundamental understanding of cavity quantum electrodynamics (QED) is challenged by the polaritonic nature of plasmonic excitations and their ultrashort lifetimes. The dynamic and statistical properties of nanoscale lasers are expected to deviate widely from conventional laser theory due to the ultrafast recombination timescales and extreme field inhomogeneities. Even the basic concept of photon absorption in the near-field has never been addressed experimentally at the single-quantum level. Besides opening novel and intriguing research directions, the peculiar properties of subwavelength fields can be exploited to optimize light-matter coupling or explore new functionalities, for future application in classical and quantum photonics.

This programme will focus on four key challenges, which arise in the investigation of quantum optical effects at the nanoscale:

  1. Developing a physical description of spontaneous emission and cavity QED at the nanoscale.
  2. Understanding stimulated emission and nanolasers on a deep subwavelength scale.
  3. Investigating the subwavelength structure of quantum states of light in the near-field.
  4. Studying optical non-linearities at the nanoscale and at the single-quantum level.

Please find a research highlight that was achieved in 2013 within this FOM programme here.