Nondestructive Detection of an Optical Photon

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Science  14 Nov 2013:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1246164

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All optical detectors to date annihilate photons upon detection, thus excluding repeated measurements. Here, we demonstrate a robust photon detection scheme which does not rely on absorption. Instead, an incoming photon is reflected off an optical resonator containing a single atom prepared in a superposition of two states. The reflection toggles the superposition phase which is then measured to trace the photon. Characterizing the device with faint laser pulses, a single-photon detection efficiency of 74% and a survival probability of 66% is achieved. The efficiency can be further increased by observing the photon repeatedly. The large single-photon nonlinearity of the experiment should enable the development of photonic quantum gates and the preparation of novel quantum states of light.

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