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Bidirectional and efficient conversion between microwave and optical light

Abstract

Converting low-frequency electrical signals into much higher-frequency optical signals has enabled modern communication networks to leverage the strengths of both microfabricated electrical circuits and optical fibre transmission, enabling information networks to grow in size and complexity. A microwave-to-optical converter in a quantum information network could provide similar gains by linking quantum processors through low-loss optical fibres and enabling a large-scale quantum network. However, no current technology can convert low-frequency microwave signals into high-frequency optical signals while preserving their fragile quantum state. Here we demonstrate a converter that provides a bidirectional, coherent and efficient link between the microwave and optical portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. We use our converter to transfer classical signals between microwave and optical light with conversion efficiencies of 10%, and achieve performance sufficient to transfer quantum states if the device were further precooled from its current 4 K operating temperature to temperatures below 40 mK.

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Figure 1: Layout and operation of microwave-to-optical converter.
Figure 2: Measurement network.
Figure 3: Bidirectional and efficient conversion.
Figure 4: Optically detected signal-to-noise ratio.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the DARPA QuASAR programme and the National Science Foundation under grant number 1125844. We would like to thank D. R. Schmidt for sharing his knowledge of fabrication techniques, J. N. Ullom for lending us equipment and P-L. Yu, J. D. Teufel and J. Kerckhoff for discussions. C.A.R. thanks the Clare Boothe Luce Foundation for support.

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Contributions

R.W.A. and R.W.P. made the measurements and analysed the data. R.W.A., R.W.P. and T.P.P. designed and constructed the experimental apparatus and optical device. R.W.A., K.C. and R.W.S. designed the electrical device. R.W.A. and K.C. fabricated the electrical device. C.A.R., R.W.S. and K.W.L. planned and supervised the experiment. R.W.A., R.W.P., C.A.R. and K.W.L. wrote the manuscript. All authors commented on the results and manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to R. W. Andrews.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Andrews, R., Peterson, R., Purdy, T. et al. Bidirectional and efficient conversion between microwave and optical light. Nature Phys 10, 321–326 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nphys2911

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