Letter | Published:

Nanophotonic quantum phase switch with a single atom

Nature volume 508, pages 241244 (10 April 2014) | Download Citation


By analogy to transistors in classical electronic circuits, quantum optical switches are important elements of quantum circuits and quantum networks1,2,3. Operated at the fundamental limit where a single quantum of light or matter controls another field or material system4, such a switch may enable applications such as long-distance quantum communication5, distributed quantum information processing2 and metrology6, and the exploration of novel quantum states of matter7. Here, by strongly coupling a photon to a single atom trapped in the near field of a nanoscale photonic crystal cavity, we realize a system in which a single atom switches the phase of a photon and a single photon modifies the atom’s phase. We experimentally demonstrate an atom-induced optical phase shift8 that is nonlinear at the two-photon level9, a photon number router that separates individual photons and photon pairs into different output modes10, and a single-photon switch in which a single ‘gate’ photon controls the propagation of a subsequent probe field11,12. These techniques pave the way to integrated quantum nanophotonic networks involving multiple atomic nodes connected by guided light.

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We thank T. Peyronel, A. Kubanek, A. Zibrov for discussions and experimental assistance. Financial support was provided by the US NSF, the Center for Ultracold Atoms, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative and the Packard Foundation. J.D.T. acknowledges support from the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. This work was performed in part at the Center for Nanoscale Systems (CNS), a member of the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network, which is supported by the NSF under award no. ECS-0335765. The CNS is part of Harvard University.

Author information

Author notes

    • T. G. Tiecke
    •  & J. D. Thompson

    These authors contributed equally to this work.


  1. Department of Physics, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA

    • T. G. Tiecke
    • , J. D. Thompson
    • , N. P. de Leon
    • , L. R. Liu
    •  & M. D. Lukin
  2. Department of Physics and Research Laboratory of Electronics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA

    • T. G. Tiecke
    •  & V. Vuletić
  3. Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA

    • N. P. de Leon


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The experiments and analysis were carried out by T.G.T., J.D.T., N.P.d.L. and L.R.L. All work was supervised by V.V. and M.D.L. All authors discussed the results and contributed to the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to V. Vuletić or M. D. Lukin.

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    Supplementary Information

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