Hologram of a single photon


The spatial structure of single photons1,2,3 is becoming an extensively explored resource to facilitate free-space quantum communication4,5,6,7 and quantum computation8 as well as for benchmarking the limits of quantum entanglement generation3 with orbital angular momentum modes1,9 or reduction of the photon free-space propagation speed10. Although accurate tailoring of the spatial structure of photons is now routinely performed using methods employed for shaping classical optical beams3,10,11, the reciprocal problem of retrieving the spatial phase-amplitude structure of an unknown single photon cannot be solved using complementary classical holography techniques12,13 that are known for excellent interferometric precision. Here, we introduce a method to record a hologram of a single photon that is probed by another reference photon, on the basis of a different concept of the quantum interference between two-photon probability amplitudes. As for classical holograms, the hologram of a single photon encodes the full information about the photon's ‘shape’ (that is, its quantum wavefunction) whose local amplitude and phase are retrieved in the demonstrated experiment.

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Figure 1: Quantum interference of two spatially structured photons.
Figure 2: Encoding of the local phase of the quantum wavefunction in the HSP.
Figure 3: Experimental set-up for measuring the HSP.
Figure 4: Measured and reconstructed HSP and the full retrieval of the encoded quantum wavefunction.


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We acknowledge insightful comments and discussion about the work and the manuscript with M. Barbieri, R. Łapkiewicz, M.J. Padgett and A. Zeilinger. This project was financed by the National Science Centre (grant no. DEC-2013/09/N/ST2/02229 and DEC-2011/03/D/ST2/01941). R.C. was supported by Foundation for Polish Science. M.J and K.B. were supported by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development integrated project Simulations and Interfaces with Quantum Systems (grant agreement no. 600645) co-financed by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education.

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W.W. proposed the idea of wavefunction phase retrieval. R.C. designed and programmed the experiment, developed HSP methods, analysed the data and prepared figures. M.J. built the set-up and performed the measurements. R.C. and M.J. wrote the manuscript assisted by W.W. and K.B, who supervised the work and contributed to data analysis.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michał Jachura.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Chrapkiewicz, R., Jachura, M., Banaszek, K. et al. Hologram of a single photon. Nature Photon 10, 576–579 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nphoton.2016.129

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