May 19, 2023 — Electrical and Computer Engineering assistant professor Simeon Bogdanov recently received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award for his proposal, “Ultrafast Quantum Networks: Pushing the Limits of Photon Production.”
The CAREER award “supports early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.” Each recipient of this prestigious award receives five years of support from the program.
The goal of Bogdanov’s proposed research is to explore the limits of rates at which single photons can be generated. Quantum networks rely on single photons to carry information, enabling a new generation of systems for secure communication, quantum computing, and high-precision sensing. The problem, however, is that successfully processing one quantum bit requires the generation of many single photons. As a result, the current “quantum” bitrates in long distance network are in the kilohertz range or below. Bogdanov says, “We hope to help solve one big problem, which is that the quantum network bitrates are too low right now for practical purposes.” With this research, he hopes to increase the quantum rates by several orders.
Increasing the rate of photon production would also yield additional benefits. Bogdanov explains “The tools we are going to develop can also be used as a resource against quantum decoherence, which is unwanted interaction with the environment. Decoherence is one of the big reasons we don’t yet have the quantum networks we want.” For example, the faster the photon is emitted by a solid-state source, the less time it will have to experience decoherence. As a consequence, by emitting photons faster, the need for cryogenic cooling to protect against decoherence will be reduced and the family of suitable photon sources will be expanded.
Bogdanov plans two main components for educational activities with the CAREER award. The first is an outreach activity for high school students to get hands-on experience with key concepts in quantum technology. Though the actual quantum experiments are typically out of reach due to their technical complexity, students will be able to build analogues using electronic circuits.
The second component is a pilot activity with the DREAAM (Driven to Reach Excellence & Academic Achievement for Males) program locally based in Champaign, IL. The objective is for low-income middle school students to practice and understand the importance of scientific language. In order to express ideas that go beyond everyday life experience, often times one needs to use more specific language. Bogdanov adds, “It’s going to introduce them to the necessity of using scientific language and practice with vivid examples where common words work poorly.”
On being selected as a recipient, Bogdanov says he’s “especially excited about the NSF award. I’ve thought about this project for a long time, and this is the type of research I dream of working on.”
Source: Amber Rose, Holonyak Micro & Nanotechnology Lab, UIUC