Researchers demonstrate secure information transfer using spatial correlations in quantum entangled beams of light

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Researchers at the University of Oklahoma led a study recently published in Science Advances that proves the principle of using spatial correlations in quantum entangled beams of light to encode information and enable its secure transmission.

Light can be used to encode information for high-data rate transmission, long-distance communication and more. But for secure communication, encoding large amounts of information in light has additional challenges to ensure the privacy and integrity of the data being transferred.

Alberto Marino, the Ted S. Webb Presidential Professor in the Homer L. Dodge College of Arts, led the research with OU doctoral student and the study’s first author Gaurav Nirala and co-authors Siva T. Pradyumna and Ashok Kumar. Marino also holds positions with OU’s Center for Quantum Research and Technology and with the Quantum Science Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

“The idea behind the project is to be able to use the spatial properties of the light to encode large amounts of information, just like how an image contains information. However, to be able to do so in a way that is compatible with quantum networks for secure information transfer. When you consider an image, it can be constructed by combining basic spatial patterns know as modes, and depending on how you combine these modes, you can change the image or encoded information,” Marino said.

“What we’re doing here that is new and different is that we’re not just using those modes to encode information; we’re using the correlations between them,” he added. “We’re using the additional information on how those modes are linked to encode the information.”

The researchers used two entangled beams of light, meaning that the light waves are interconnected with correlations that are stronger than those that can be achieved with classical light and remain interconnected despite their distance apart.

“The advantage of the approach we introduce is that you’re not able to recover the encoded information unless you perform joint measurements of the two entangled beams,” Marino said. “This has applications such as secure communication, given that if you were to measure each beam by itself, you would not be able to extract any information. You have to obtain the shared information between both of the beams and combine it in the right way to extract the encoded information.”

Through a series of images and correlation measurements, the researchers demonstrated results of successfully encoding information in these quantum-entangled beams of light. Only when the two beams were combined using the methods intended did the information resolve into recognizable information encoded in the form of images.

“The experimental result describes how one can transfer spatial patterns from one optical field to two new optical fields generated using a quantum mechanical process called four-wave mixing,” said Nirala. “The encoded spatial pattern can be retrieved solely by joint measurements of generated fields. One interesting aspect of this experiment is that it offers a novel method of encoding information in light by modifying the correlation between various spatial modes without impacting time-correlations.”

“What this could enable, in principle, is the ability to securely encode and transmit a lot of information using the spatial properties of the light, just like how an image contains a lot more information than just turning the light on and off,” Marino said. “Using the spatial correlations is a new approach to encode information.”

“Information encoding in the spatial correlations of entangled twin beams” was published in Science Advances on June 2, 2023.

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