Chiral quantum optics


Advanced photonic nanostructures are currently revolutionizing the optics and photonics that underpin applications ranging from light technology to quantum-information processing. The strong light confinement in these structures can lock the local polarization of the light to its propagation direction, leading to propagation-direction-dependent emission, scattering and absorption of photons by quantum emitters. The possibility of such a propagation-direction-dependent, or chiral, light–matter interaction is not accounted for in standard quantum optics and its recent discovery brought about the research field of chiral quantum optics. The latter offers fundamentally new functionalities and applications: it enables the assembly of non-reciprocal single-photon devices that can be operated in a quantum superposition of two or more of their operational states and the realization of deterministic spin–photon interfaces. Moreover, engineered directional photonic reservoirs could lead to the development of complex quantum networks that, for example, could simulate novel classes of quantum many-body systems.

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Figure 1: Illustration of basic chiral photon–emitter processes.
Figure 2: Electric field polarization and spin in optical nanofibres and waveguides.
Figure 3: Nanophotonic devices used for chiral coupling between light and quantum emitters.
Figure 8: Total internal reflection of a linearly p-polarized wave at a dielectric interface.
Figure 4: Examples of chiral light–matter interaction in photonic nanostructures.
Figure 5: Photon–emitter scattering for symmetric and chiral coupling.
Figure 6: Applications of chiral light–matter interaction.
Figure 7: Multi-emitter chiral coupling and dynamics.


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We acknowledge I. Söllner and A. S. Sørensen for discussions. P.L., S.M. and S.S. acknowledge financial support from the following funding agencies: the Lundbeck Foundation, the Villum Foundation, the Carlsberg Foundation, the European Research Council (ERC Consolidator Grant ‘ALLQUANTUM’ and ERC Advanced Grant ‘SCALE’), Innovation Fund Denmark (Quantum Innovation Center ‘Qubiz’) and the Danish Council for Independent Research. A.R., P.S. and J.V. acknowledge financial support from the following funding agencies: the Austrian Science Fund (SFB NextLite Project No. F 4908-N23, SFB FoQuS Project No. F 4017 and DK CoQuS Project No. W 1210-N16), the European Commission (IP SIQS No. 600645 and Marie Curie IEF Grant No. 300392) and the European Research Council (ERC Consolidator Grant ‘NanoQuaNt’). H.P. and P.Z. are supported by the SFB FOQUS of the Austrian Science Fund FWF, and ERC Synergy Grant UQUAM.

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All authors contributed to the preparation of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Peter Lodahl or Arno Rauschenbeutel or Peter Zoller.

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Reviewer Information Nature thanks A. Clerk, M. Hafezi and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Lodahl, P., Mahmoodian, S., Stobbe, S. et al. Chiral quantum optics. Nature 541, 473–480 (2017).

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