This Spotlight aims to provide a general introduction to linear and nonlinear optical components that are frequently used to implement the protocols for quantum computation and communication. The role of each optical element is described briefly, and it is shown that these optical elements can be combined to constitute quantum circuits for performing various quantum computing and communication tasks. Present challenges and future scopes are also mentioned briefly. Specifically, after introducing the qubit, it is stated that a quantum gate is a device that transforms a quantum state into another quantum state. Thus, most of the optical components (e.g., a beamsplitter, a wave plate, a mirror, a polarizing beamsplitter) can be viewed as quantum gates because each of these optical elements can transform a quantum state into another quantum state. This fact is the basis for constructing useful quantum circuits using optical elements. Finally, a few proposals for optical realizations of schemes for quantum communication and computation are described.
In classical computation and communication, we use classical gates and bits. Similarly, in quantum computation and communication, we use their quantum analogs, i.e., quantum gates and qubit(s) [quantum bit(s)]. We have already mentioned that a bit can be realized in various ways. In the same way, a qubit can also be realized in various ways, and accordingly, corresponding quantum gates that would operate on qubits can also be realized in various ways. Here, we focus on a specific implementation: optical implementation, where qubits are realized using photons and quantum gates, and circuits are realized using various optical components. Specific merits of this realization lie in the following facts: (i) in quantum communication we need to transmit qubits from one location to the other, and transmission of photons is easier than any other realization of qubits; (ii) the effect of the environment (e.g., external electric and magnetic fields) on photons is less compared to any other implementations of qubits; and (iii) integrated optics are already a well-developed field. Keeping these points in mind, this Spotlight describes basic optical elements and how to use those elements to implement various schemes of quantum computation and communication. We will mostly describe realizations using bulk optics. However, in most cases, it is not difficult to transform these bulk-optics-based realizations into integrated optics. To begin with, in Section 1.1, we formally define a qubit and describe two alternative ways of realizing a qubit using a photon.
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