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A room-temperature single-photon source based on strongly interacting Rydberg atoms

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Science  26 Oct 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6413, pp. 446-449
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau1949

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Single photons from inflated atoms

Single-photon emitters are of interest for many applications, such as quantum sensing and quantum secure communication. Although efficient on-demand solid-state sources based on quantum dots, defect color centers in diamond, and single molecules are available, most of these systems require cryogenic temperatures for optimal performance. Ripka et al. used a cloud of warm excited rubidium atoms confined to a gas cell and exploited the exaggerated interaction of Rydberg states to generate single photons on demand. The results demonstrate the viability of atomic gases for application in the development of quantum technologies.

Science, this issue p. 446

Abstract

Tailored quantum states of light can be created via a transfer of collective quantum states of matter to light modes. Such collective quantum states emerge in interacting many-body systems if thermal fluctuations are overcome by sufficient interaction strengths. Therefore, ultracold temperatures or strong confinement are typically required. We show that the exaggerated interactions between Rydberg atoms allow for collective quantum states even above room temperature. The emerging Rydberg interactions lead both to suppression of multiple Rydberg state excitations and destructive interference due to polariton dephasing. We experimentally implemented a four-wave mixing scheme to demonstrate an on-demand single-photon source. The combination of glass cell technology, identical atoms, and operation around room temperature promises scalability and integrability. This approach has the potential for various applications in quantum information processing and communication.

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