Quantum-Enhanced Optical-Phase Tracking

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Science  21 Sep 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6101, pp. 1514-1517
DOI: 10.1126/science.1225258

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Keeping Track of Photon Phase

In optical interferometers or optical communications, information is often stored in terms of the phase of the waveform or light pulse. However, fluctuations and noise can give rise to random jitter in the phase and amplitude of the optical pulses, making it difficult to keep track of the phase. Yonezawa et al. (p. 1514) developed a technique based on quantum mechanical squeezing to determine the phase of randomly varying optical waveforms. The quantum mechanical technique enhanced the precision with which the phase could be determined and, as optical technologies continue to be miniaturized, should be helpful in applications within metrology.


Tracking a randomly varying optical phase is a key task in metrology, with applications in optical communication. The best precision for optical-phase tracking has until now been limited by the quantum vacuum fluctuations of coherent light. Here, we surpass this coherent-state limit by using a continuous-wave beam in a phase-squeezed quantum state. Unlike in previous squeezing-enhanced metrology, restricted to phases with very small variation, the best tracking precision (for a fixed light intensity) is achieved for a finite degree of squeezing because of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. By optimizing the squeezing, we track the phase with a mean square error 15 ± 4% below the coherent-state limit.

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