Entanglement distribution between distant parties is one of the most important and challenging tasks in quantum communication. Distribution of photonic entangled states using optical fiber links is a fundamental building block toward quantum networks. Among the different degrees of freedom, orbital angular momentum (OAM) is one of the most promising due to its natural capability to encode high dimensional quantum states. We experimentally demonstrate fiber distribution of hybrid polarization-vector vortex entangled photon pairs. To this end, we exploit a recently developed air-core fiber that supports OAM modes. High fidelity distribution of the entangled states is demonstrated by performing quantum state tomography in the polarization-OAM Hilbert space after fiber propagation and by violations of Bell inequalities and multipartite entanglement tests. The results open new scenarios for quantum applications where correlated complex states can be transmitted by exploiting the vectorial nature of light.
Quantum communication requires the reliable transmission of quantized information carriers (qubits) among several and spatially separated parties,1 toward development of quantum networks. In particular, protocols based on genuine quantum schemes, such as entanglement swapping,2–5 superdense coding,6–9 and quantum teleportation,10–16 have to be adopted in future networks to access communication advantages that would be unattainable by using any classical resource. The key element of these schemes is entanglement, which is one of the most distinctive quantum phenomena, predicted by Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen,17 that defy the classical notion of local causality.18 Quantum correlations are an essential ingredient for quantum foundations studies and for different quantum information processes.19–22 Great interest has been devoted to the coherent distribution through optical fibers of such quantum correlations since it constitutes the cornerstone for the future quantum networks.23–26 Several photon degrees of freedom can be employed for this task, such as frequency, orbital angular momentum (OAM), time, and polarization.25–29 In particular, OAM of light is one of the most promising, albeit challenging to manipulate. Photons owning a nonzero OAM are characterized by the azimuthal phase dependence , where is the amount of OAM carried by each photon, and is an unbounded integer value representing discrete quantum states.30,31 Due to its unbounded nature, OAM has been largely investigated both for classical and quantum communications, being capable of encoding high dimensional quantum states (qudits), which enhance the photon information capacity.32–43 Experimental investigations on OAM supporting fibers for classical communications have been reported.32,33,44–46 Still, distribution of quantum states through multimode fibers supporting OAM modes is a newborn research field, where only a few experiments have been realized to date.47,48 In Ref. 47, high-dimensional quantum states, encoded in weak coherent pulses, have been transmitted and detected through a 1.2-km length air-core fiber at telecom wavelength, demonstrating the feasibility of high-dimensional quantum communication and quantum key distribution protocols. In Ref. 48, a solid core vortex fiber has been exploited, demonstrating the possibility of two-dimensional quantum communication with structured photons. Nonetheless, the transmission of entangled photon pairs still needs to be explored.
In this work, we demonstrate distribution of hybrid entanglement between a linearly polarized photon and a vector vortex (VV) beam, i.e., a doughnut-shaped beam with an inhomogeneous polarization pattern, at telecom wavelength. The VV beam is transmitted through a 5-m long air-core fiber,49 whose very low mode mixing preserves OAM states and, in turn, hybrid entanglement. This peculiar feature opens up new scenarios and opportunities in quantum communications toward fiber-based quantum networks, enabling the capability to employ high-dimensional quantum states, embedded in the photon polarization and OAM degrees of freedom.
Vector Vortex Beam and Hybrid Entanglement Generation
Vector vortex beams constitute a special class of vector beams, which are characterized by an inhomogeneous polarization distribution over their transverse profile.50 In particular, a VV beam has an azimuthally varying polarization pattern, surrounding a central optical singularity.51–53 Due to their distinctive polarization distributions, VV beams have shown unique features, making them appealing for different research purposes, e.g., microscopy,54 optical trapping,55,56 metrology,57,58 nanophotonics,59 and communication.60–67 Formally, the state () describes a photon with uniform right (left) circular polarization carrying of OAM, and a VV beam can be conveniently described by a nonseparable superposition of polarization-OAM eigenmodes. In this superposition, OAM quanta carried by the photons define the order of the VV beam. In particular, a VV beam belongs to a Hilbert space spanned by states .53 For instance, if and if we consider equally distributed superpositions and , radially and azimuthally polarized beams are obtained.51,52
Here, we experimentally demonstrate fiber distribution of a VV-polarization entangled photon state. The conceptual scheme of the experiment is reported in Fig. 1. A polarization-VV beam entangled photon pair is generated from an initial polarization entangled pair (blue ribbon). Only one photon of the pair encodes the VV state (green ribbon). Subsequently, the VV beam is coupled and transmitted through the 5-m long air-core fiber and then measured together with the linearly polarized photon. In our case, VV beams of order are generated, whose expressions are
The polarization patterns associated to states and are shown in Fig. 1(a). In the following, we will refer to and as and , respectively. The experimental apparatus is reported in Fig. 2. Polarization entangled photon pairs, , are generated at 1550 nm wavelength by a periodically poled potassium titanyl phosphate (ppKTP) crystal placed into a polarization Sagnac interferometer and pumped with a continuous-wave laser at 775 nm. Indeed, for fiber-based quantum communication, it is important to exploit photons within the C-band (1530 to 1565 nm), where optical fibers show minimal losses. The relative phase of the entangled state is controlled to generate the singlet stateFig. 2, photons along output mode 2 impinge on a vortex plate (VP), adding OAM order . The VP can be considered as a nontunable -plate (QP), i.e., a device that couples the polarization and the OAM of a single photon.68 Specifically, in the circular polarization basis , the action of a QP with topological charge , on a single photon of OAM order , is described by the transformation: and . In our case, and the initial OAM order is . Exploiting the spin-orbit coupling, we generate the VV state or depending on the input polarization state, or , respectively.69,70 Thus, the polarization entangled singlet state is transformed into the hybrid entangled state
The versatility of our experimental approach is based on full control of each degree of freedom through suitable optical components, allowing the preparation of the desired hybrid VV-polarization entangled state [Eq. (4)].
Hybrid Entanglement Distribution and Measurement
The main purpose of our work is to prove the feasibility of entanglement distribution with OAM states transmitted through an air-core fiber. In particular, we demonstrate that the coherence of the complex hybrid entangled state in Eq. (4) is preserved. This is possible since the states and are superposition of antialigned states, i.e., spin (polarization) and OAM with opposite sign, hence the VV beams are degenerate in time along the fiber transmission.49 Indeed, an eventual nondegeneracy of those states could impair the coherence of the VV states and, therefore, of the entangled pair. Different theoretical analysis and measurements can be performed to assess the fidelity of the transmitted states and to quantify entanglement, depending on the requirements in the certification process.71 In this work, the quality of the transmitted states is measured through the standard tomography processes,72 and their entanglement is certified through CHSH-like inequality violations73 and tripartite entanglement tests.74–79
As a first step, we characterize the initial polarization entangled state in Eq. (3). To fully determine the quality of the state generated by the ppKTP source, we perform a quantum state tomography within the polarization space of the two photons. The measurements are implemented by collecting twofold detection after two polarization analysis stages placed along each output mode of the source. The obtained tomography is shown in Fig. 3(a), where the relative fidelity with respect to the ideal singlet state is . Furthermore, we carry out a nonlocality test obtaining as the maximum value of the CHSH inequality .73 Subtracting the accidental coincidences from , such parameter becomes .
Hybrid Entangled State (HyEnt)
Subsequently, we consider the global hybrid VV-polarization entangled state in Eq. (4) and measure the twofold detection after the VV state propagation through the air-core fiber. The fiber structure allows the transmission of OAM modes with very low mode mixing among them. It is composed by a central air core surrounded by a high refractive index ring, creating a large refractive index step that shapes the field of the modes, allowing for their guidance. The fiber we used supports OAM modes with and has shown to achieve losses. Further details and specifications on the fiber are reported in Refs. 47 and 49. In our experiment, we have decided to work with modes , achieving a coupling efficiency . At this stage, we consider that the entangled two qubit state lies in a four-dimensional space spanned by the basis , which is composed by the polarization of photon 1 and the VV states of photon 2. The qubit encoded in photon 1 is measured by a polarization analysis stage (green platform in Fig. 2). Conversely, the measurements of the VV qubit, i.e., photon 2, are implemented by a VP, identical to the one used in the generation process, and a polarization analysis stage (purple platform in Fig. 2). The VP converts back the VV beam to the fundamental Gaussian-like mode, restoring the initial polarization state for photon 2 before impinging on the first VP. In this way, the VV states and are directly mapped into polarization states and , which are measured with the usual set of quarter-wave plate (QWP), half-wave plate (HWP), and a polarization beam splitter (PBS) (see Fig. 2).61,69,70 State tomography in the four-dimensional space is reported in Fig. 3(b). We consider as a target state the ideal evolution of the density matrix describing the experimental state generated by the source. The resulting fidelity between such state and the state measured after the fiber propagation is . Furthermore, we observe violation of the CHSH inequality, obtaining the value for raw data and value by subtracting for accidental coincidences, thus violating by 21 and 22 standard deviations the separable limit , respectively.
Intrasystem Entangled State (Intra)
Now, we focus on the VV state embedded in photon 2 and its transmission through the air-core fiber. Such analysis quantifies the quality of the VV beam state generation, transmission through the air-core fiber, and conversion to the fundamental Gaussian mode. The single photon VV states and , Eqs. (1) and (2), are maximally entangled in the OAM and polarization degrees of freedom. They correspond to single-particle entanglement states, referred to as intrasystem entanglement. The nonseparability between polarization and OAM states is not related to nonlocal properties since they are relative to the same physical system. However, Bell-like inequalities can be exploited to demonstrate the single-particle entanglement, ruling out models that assume realism and noncontexuality of commuting observables, relative to such systems.80–83 Hence, we certify the presence of intrasystem entanglement carrying out quantum state tomography and performing CHSH-like inequality in the space of polarization and OAM degrees of freedom of photon 2. Horizontally polarized heralded single photons are sent to the VP to conditionally prepare state for photon 2. The measurements on the polarization and the OAM degrees of freedom of photon 2 are performed independently. For this purpose, two cascaded measurement stages are needed (green and purple platforms in Fig. 2). A first stage (HWP, QWP, and PBS) performs the polarization analysis (green platform in Fig. 2). The second stage composed of a VP and a polarization analysis (purple platform in Fig. 2) measures the photon state in the OAM space. As before, the VP maps the information encoded in OAM to a polarization state, which is then measured. Finally, before detection the photon is coupled to a single-mode fiber, tracing out all OAM contributions different from the zero order. The measured quantum state tomography is shown in Fig. 3(c), and the relative fidelity calculated with respect to the Bell state is . The corresponding parameters obtained from the CHSH-like inequality violations are and . The set of CHSH violations measured for each state (source, HyEnt, and intra) is summarized in Table 1, and the mean values of the measured operators are shown in Fig. 4.
CHSH violations. The CHSH violation parameters obtained from raw data (Sraw) and by subtracting for accidental coincidences (S) are reported for the polarization entangled state generated by the source, the hybrid VV-polarization entangled state (HyEnt), and the intrasystem entangled VV state embedded in the photon 2 and transmitted through the air-core fiber (intra).
These results have been carried out for degenerate antialigned states, corresponding to Eqs. (1) and (2), that experience negligible temporal dispersion during propagation. Other classes of OAM modes, enabling to reach higher dimensional systems, can be transmitted through the air-core fiber by adding an appropriate precompensation stage.47 Such stage allows one to counteract the modal dispersion due to different effective refractive indices in the fiber.49
Three Qubits HyEnt
The previous measurements have independently certified the high fidelity of both the hybrid VV-polarization entangled state and the single photon VV beam state after propagation in the air-core fiber.
We now characterize the hybrid VV-polarization entangled state in Eq. (4) with a different apparatus that does not assume a two-dimensional Hilbert space for photon 2 spanned by . The measurements on the final state are performed by a polarization analysis stage for photon 1 and by polarization and OAM analysis stages for photon 2, as the one adopted for the intrasystem entanglement characterization (Fig. 2). This apparatus allows one to independently measure the polarization and the OAM component of photon 2 so that the total encoding three-qubit space can be now spanned by the polarization and OAM degrees of freedom in addition to the polarization of photon 1. Thus, by performing the three-qubit quantum state tomography of the transmitted state (Fig. 5), a final fidelity with respect to the ideal state in Eq. (4) is obtained. This shows that the fiber preserves the injected state without adding noise contributions. These results provide additional evidence that the fiber is suitable for the transmission of higher-dimensional quantum states. As for the other cases, also for the three-qubit case we perform a device independent test of the quantum correlations, showing their preservation after fiber transmission of the VV state. First, we test the Mermin–Ardehali–Belinski–Klyshko inequality,74–76 which provides an upper bound for contextual hidden variable theories, describing the correlations between observables relative to three qubits:
The observables , , and () are dichotomic (with eigenvalues ) and relative to the first, the second, and the third qubit, respectively. Violation of such inequality certifies the nonclassical correlations of tripartite states. Furthermore, if a value is found, models in which quantum correlations are allowed between just two of the three qubits (biseparable quantum models) are ruled out as well.84,85 The state Eq. (4) in the three-qubit space is able to reach the algebraic value of by choosing the operators: , , , , where () are the Pauli operators relative to photons 1 (A) and 2 (B) in the polarization in basis ; and , , where the Pauli operators are in the OAM basis relative to photon 2. Measuring such operators after the VV state transmission and calculating the parameter , we obtain from raw data, and the value by subtracting accidental coincidences. In this way, we violated the classical bound by 35 and 38 standard deviations and the quantum biseparable bound by 15 and 17 standard deviations, respectively.
Finally, we further study the correlation of the state in Eq. (4) by performing a Hardy test,77,78 recently generalized in a suitable form for more than two parties by Ref. 79. Given a system with certain null correlation probabilities, a paradox arises when other events are automatically forbidden in the framework of noncontextual hidden variable models while they can happen within a quantum context. Since experimentally measuring null probabilities represents a difficult task, Hardy logical contradictions can be conveniently mapped into more general inequalities. In Ref. 79, an extended multiparty version of Hardy’s paradox is proposed, leading to an inequality that for three qubits reads
Conclusions and Discussion
Future quantum communication will require the distribution of quantum states over long distances. The protocols implemented within such systems will include the distribution of high-dimensional and entangled quantum states. Indeed, spanning Hilbert spaces of greater dimensions allows higher information capacity and noise resilience, leading to enhanced quantum information processing.38,86,87 In this context, VV states represent a powerful resource for classical and quantum applications.
Here, we demonstrated the feasibility of distributing complex VV states through an OAM supporting fiber, also permitting one to preserve entanglement with a different system. In particular, we achieved the transmission of a VV state, presenting correlations between polarization and OAM, entangled with the polarization of a separate second photon. To fully assess the robustness to decoherence and quality of the transmitted complex entangled state, we performed quantum state tomographies, violations of CHSH-like inequalities and multipartite entanglement tests. The achieved fidelities of the transmitted state demonstrate the capability to perform high fidelity distribution in an OAM supporting fiber of a hybrid VV-polarization entangled state at telecom wavelength. In particular, the possibility of simultaneously encoding and distributing information in the polarization and OAM degree of freedom of a single particle represents a useful resource due to the higher robustness to losses while tools for their processing have been identified.88 This work paves the way toward adoption of high-dimensional entanglement in quantum networks. Further perspectives of this work involve the investigation of fiber-based distribution of different orders of OAM entangled states and their distribution over longer distances, exploiting the potential scalability arising from a fiber-based approach. Indeed, the results presented here are expected to be extended to long distance transmission since low mode mixing can be achieved in longer fiber.47 Other perspectives involve interfacing of OAM integrated circuits89–91 through OAM supporting fibers for future quantum networks.
Note: During the preparation of this manuscript, the authors became aware of a work by Huan Cao et al. on a similar topic.92
We thank S. Ramachandran and P. Gregg for the fiber design, P. Kristensen from OFS-Fitel for the fiber fabrication, and D. Poderini for many advices on the software development. Funding Information: This work was supported by the Center of Excellence, SPOC - Silicon Photonics for Optical Communications (ref DNRF123), by the People Programme (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under REA grant agreement no. 609405 (COFUNDPostdocDTU), and by the ERC-Advanced grant PHOSPhOR (Photonics of Spin-Orbit Optical Phenomena; Grant Agreement No. 694683). G.C. acknowledges Becas Chile and Conicyt.
Daniele Cozzolino is a PhD candidate at the SPOC Centre of the Department of Photonics Engineering at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). He obtained his BSc and MSc degrees in physics at the University of Naples Federico II. His research interests are focused on quantum information and fundamental physics.
Emanuele Polino is a PhD student working under supervision of Fabio Sciarrino at the Quantum Information Lab in the Physics Department at Sapienza Università di Roma. He graduated in 2016 from Sapienza University of Roma. Currently working on photonic technologies for quantum information tasks and quantum foundations studies.
Mauro Valeri is a PhD student working under supervision of Fabio Sciarrino at the Quantum Information Lab in the physics Department at Sapienza Università di Roma. He graduated in 2017 from Sapienza University of Roma. He is currently working on photonic technologies for quantum information tasks, like quantum metrology on photonic devices, and exploiting machine learning techniques.
Gonzalo Carvacho is currently working on quantum optical manipulation, like the orbital angular momentum of light and its applications in quantum information and communication, and quantum foundations such as Bell-like tests with multiphoton generation. He graduated in 2014 from the Universidad de Concepcion (Chile).
Davide Bacco is MSCA PostDoc at Department of Photonics Engineering at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). He received his degree in engineering telecommunication in 2011 at the University of Padova, Italy. In 2015 he finished in the same university his PhD on science technology and spatial measures (CISAS). His research interests regard quantum communication and silicon photonics for quantum communications.
Nicolò Spagnolo received his PhD in 2012 in physical science of matter, with a thesis on experimental multiphoton quantum optical states. He is a temporary researcher in the Department of Physics of Sapienza Università di Roma. His research interests have been focused on quantum information and simulation protocols employing different photonic platforms.
Leif K. Oxenløwe is the group leader of the High-Speed Optical Communications Group at DTU Fotonik, Department of Photonics Engineering, at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), and the centre leader of the Research Centre of Excellence SPOC (Silicon Photonics for Optical Communications) supported by the Danish National Research Foundation. His research interests are focused on silicon photonics for optical processing and high speed optical communication.
Fabio Sciarrino received his PhD in 2004 with a thesis in experimental quantum optics. He is a full professor and head of the Quantum Information Lab in the Department of Physics of Sapienza Università di Roma. Since 2013, he has been a fellow of the Sapienza School for Advanced Studies. His main field of research is quantum information and quantum optics, with works on quantum teleportation, optimal quantum machines, fundamental tests, quantum communication, and orbital angular momentum.