Quantum Optics

Quantum optics is the study of quantized light (photons) and its interaction with matter. The advancement of quantum optics theory and experiments enabled remarkably precise tests of fundamental questions in physics, as well as applications ranging from lasers to quantum computing. The University of Rochester is one of the world's leading centers of quantum optics since its birth in the 1960's, with the notable distinction of having three former students/faculty, Steven Chu in 1997 and Donna Strickland and Gérard Mourou in 2018, recognized and honored with Nobel Prizes in Physics for their pioneering contributions to quantum optics. In fact, the very term “quantum optics” was coined in Rochester, during the fruitful collaborations of Emil Wolf and Leonard Mandel.

At present there are more than a dozen different research groups at the University involved in different aspects of quantum optics, with a strong interest in foundational questions in quantum mechanics, involving counter-intuitive quantum phenomena such as superposition and entanglement. Simultaneously, our research is driven by the promise of bringing futuristic applications to fruition, including quantum computing, cryptography and teleportation. Research areas include quantum theory (Eberly, Franco, Jordan, Landi), atomic, molecular and optical (AMO) experiments with trapped atoms (Bigelow), defect centers (Vamivakas), nanophotonics (Cardenas, Lin), non-linear optics (Agrawal, Boyd), as well as quantum optics experiments in the solid state with superconducting circuits (Blok), spin qubits (Nichol), 2D materials (Wu) and optomechanics (Renninger). A broad overview of quantum research across all departments of University of Rochester can be found at the UR Quantum website.

Department Research

Departmental research in quantum optics spans a wide range of topics:

  • Professor Agrawal's research interests are in the area of theoretical optics, particularly quantum electronics, nonlinear optics, and laser physics. His current research is focused on nonlinear silicon photonics, highly nonlinear fibers, and all-optical signal processing with semiconductor optical amplifiers.
  • The Cooling and Trapping (CAT) Laboratory of Professor Bigelow is focusing on topological excitations of a spinor Bose-Einstein condensate for fundamental understanding and for application to quantum metrology and information. The CAT group also has a leading program on the formation and control of ultra-cold polar molecules. Experimental and theoretical work spans a range of studies of nonlinear atom (and molecular) optics.
  • Professor Blok’s research focuses on the quantum mechanical properties of superconductors, including superconducting qubits and microwave resonators. Areas of interest include quantum computing with multi-level systems(qudits) and quantum simulation with superconducting circuits.
  • Professor Boyd is interested in studies of the nonlinear interaction of light with matter, in the use of nonlinear optics to control the group velocity of light, in the development of nanostructured materials with exotic optical properties, in the study of quantum states of light, and in the development of applications of these techniques.
  • Professor Cardenas’ research focuses on integrated photonics, nanophotonics, and nonlinear photonics. His group tackles high impact challenges using nanostructured devices on a chip. Current research is focused on four main areas: photonic packaging, 2D materials integrated photonics, nonlinear photonics, and on-chip quantum photonics.
  • Professor Eberly's group is involved in theoretical studies of nonclassical states of radiation, continuous quantum entanglement, optical dark-state solitons, and electron correlation in high-field ionization.
  • Professor Franco works at the interface of chemistry, physics, optics and nanoscience, using theory and simulation to develop new methods to probe and control the behavior of matter by means of external stimuli. Topics of interest include quantum dynamics, investigating basic de-coherence processes in the condensed phase, exploring frontiers of the laser-matter interaction, and advancing single-molecule spectroscopies that can be constructed in the context of nanoscale junctions.
  • Professor Jordan investigates the quantum theory of dynamics and measurement in condensed matter and optical contexts. He is involved in research of electron transport and fluctuations in mesoscopic systems, many-body quantum entanglement, quantum thermodynamics, and the foundations of quantum mechanics.
  • Professor Landi’s research is in the field of theoretical quantum information sciences and technologies. Areas of interest include open quantum systems, quantum thermodynamics, quantum transport and quantum metrology. His recent work focuses on reformulating the laws of thermodynamics, and concepts such as resource expenditure and irreversibility, within a quantum-coherent context.
  • Professor Lin’s research focuses on understanding the fundamental physics of novel nonlinear optical, quantum optical, and optomechanical phenomena in micro-/nanoscopic photonic structures, and on finding their potential applications towards chip-scale photonic signal processing in both classical and quantum regimes.
  • Professor Nichol’s group conducts research on the quantum mechanical properties of individual electrons in semiconductor quantum dots. Particular areas of interest are quantum computing with spin qubits, many-body quantum coherence, and coherent spin-phonon coupling.
  • Professor Renninger’s research interest is in experimental light-matter interactions. His group focuses on ultrafast nonlinear optics and pulsed lasers for applications including imaging deep into the brain. They also investigate the coherent interactions between photons and phonons for applications such as quantum computing, high-speed networking, and dark matter detection.
  • Professor Vamivakas' research efforts center on light-matter interactions at the nanosclae, using optics to interrogate and control both artificial and naturally occurring solid state quantum emitters. Potential applications range from optical metrology to quantum information science.
  • Professor Wu’s research involves using new quantum materials to create novel electronic devices beyond Moore's law computation. Topics such as spintronics, topological electronics, and multifunctional complex oxide-based transistors are explored from the perspective of materials synthesis, nano-fabrication, and low-noise device characterization.