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Detecting quantum light

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The quantization of light is the basis for quantum optics and has led to the observation of a multitude of genuine quantum effects which cannot be explained by classical physics. Yet, there exist different views when we refer to the distinct quantum character of light as opposed to classical fields. A major impact on how we describe photonic states is caused by the detection method we use for the quantum state characterization. In the theoretical modelling measuring light always means the recording of photon statistics of some kind, though the way we interpret the results is quite different and depends mainly on the intensity of actual detected light. If we use conventional photodiodes and monitor bright light, we attribute the detected statistics to quadrature measurements in a phase space representation, or - in other words - we identify the quantum state by studying its uncertainties of its field amplitude and phase properties which correspond to conjugate quantum observables. For multi-photon states with very low intensity we have to employ avalanche photodiodes (APDs) to be able to see any signal, but photon number resolution seems difficult in this regime. Recent developments allow one to ascertain information about the photon statistics from APD measurements opening up new routes for characterizing photonic states. In this article we review the different methods for modern quantum state metrology where we include theoretical aspects as well as the description of the state-of-the-art technology for measuring photon statistics.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Max-Planck Research Group, IOIP, Erlangen, Germany

Publication date: May 1, 2007

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