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Quantum sunlight experiment could shed light on stellar astrophysics

15 May 2019, 14:15 UTC
Quantum sunlight experiment could shed light on stellar astrophysics
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The first unambiguous proof that light from a thermal source behaves quantum mechanically has been claimed by physicists in China. Their demonstration involved interfering single photons from one distant thermal source – the Sun – with photons from a semiconductor quantum dot here on Earth. They say that their work could help enable teleportation, cryptography and other quantum technologies, as well as provide new insights into stellar astrophysics.

While many properties of light can be understood in terms of classical electromagnetic fields, others require a quantum-mechanical description based on discrete photons. Among these is the behaviour of two indistinguishable single photons that meet at a 50:50 beam splitter. Each photon is as likely to be reflected from the apparatus as it is to pass through, and therefore there are in principle four possible outcomes – two of which involve the photons leaving through the same output port while in the other two they make separate exits.
Classically, the photons’ behaviour is totally random and as such the particles are expected to leave together 50% of the time. However, physicists at the University of Rochester in the US showed in 1987 that that is not what happens. Chung Ki Hong, Zhe ...

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