Direct generation of photon triplets using cascaded photon-pair sources


Non-classical states of light, such as entangled photon pairs and number states, are essential for fundamental tests of quantum mechanics and optical quantum technologies. The most widespread technique for creating these quantum resources is spontaneous parametric down-conversion of laser light into photon pairs1. Conservation of energy and momentum in this process, known as phase-matching, gives rise to strong correlations that are used to produce two-photon entanglement in various degrees of freedom2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9. It has been a longstanding goal in quantum optics to realize a source that can produce analogous correlations in photon triplets, but of the many approaches considered, none has been technically feasible10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17. Here we report the observation of photon triplets generated by cascaded down-conversion. Each triplet originates from a single pump photon, and therefore quantum correlations will extend over all three photons18 in a way not achievable with independently created photon pairs19. Our photon-triplet source will allow experimental interrogation of novel quantum correlations20, the generation of tripartite entanglement12,21 without post-selection and the generation of heralded entangled photon pairs suitable for linear optical quantum computing22. Two of the triplet photons have a wavelength matched for optimal transmission in optical fibres, suitable for three-party quantum communication23. Furthermore, our results open interesting regimes of non-linear optics, as we observe spontaneous down-conversion pumped by single photons, an interaction also highly relevant to optical quantum computing.

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Figure 1: Schematic of photon-triplet generation and experimental set-up.
Figure 2: Triple-coincidence histograms.
Figure 3: Phase-matching and triple-coincidence dependence on crystal temperatures.


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The authors would like to thank H. Majedi and G. Weihs for providing equipment and infrastructure for implementing the experiment. Gratefully acknowledged is the financial support by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, the Ontario Centres of Excellence, the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. S.R. acknowledges support from the FWF (CoQus).

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H.H. and D.R.H. performed the experiment and analysed the data; A.F. and S.R. participated in the design of the experiment; K.J.R. and T.J. contributed to the design and realization of the experiment; and all authors co-wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Hannes Hübel or Thomas Jennewein.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Hübel, H., Hamel, D., Fedrizzi, A. et al. Direct generation of photon triplets using cascaded photon-pair sources. Nature 466, 601–603 (2010).

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