School of Physics - Theses

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    Erbium for optical modulation and quantum computation
    Lim, Herianto ( 2017)
    Erbium (Er) is a lanthanide element, mainly used in its trivalent ionic form (Er3+), as an active dopant in optical devices, for light amplification or generation. The luminescence of Er3+ lies within the conventional wavelength band, 1530-1565 nm, for fiber-optic communication. The low noise, linear response, and stability of the optical gain provided by the Er3+ luminescence are ideal for applications in photonic systems that operate in the fiber-optic frequency. While much research has been done to understand the Er3+ luminescence in various lasing media, few studies have been conducted to tap the potential of Er for applications other than amplifiers or lasers. This thesis delves into two new areas, namely optical modulation and quantum computation, where the Er3+ luminescence may be able to be applied in a novel way. By incorporating Er3+ into a switchable optical material, an optical modulator could potentially be made that is capable of not only switching but also amplifying signal transmission or sustaining the signal intensity from propagation losses. This integrated approach could reduce device footprint and latency for on-chip as well as synchronous applications. Successful integration of Er, however, has never been demonstrated in conventional optical modulators because their reliance on electro-optic effects conflicts with the carrier-sensitive mechanism of the Er3+ luminescence. The compatibility between Er and a recently advocated optical material, namely vanadium dioxide (VO2), is examined in the first part of this thesis. VO2 exhibits a hysteretic, bistable phase transition that is accompanied by a high-contrast optical switching in infrared, including the fiber-optic, wavelength band. The phase transition can be triggered thermally as well as optically. When triggered optically, it can occur in picosecond timescale, making VO2 a promising material for ultrafast optical switching applications. Experimental characterizations of the Er3+ luminescence and the optical switching were performed on selectively prepared thin-film samples of VO2. The Er3+ luminescence could be observed after the samples were implanted with Er and then annealed between 800*C and 1000*C. The optical switching could also be measured in the implanted and annealed samples as they were thermally heated up and then cooled down past the critical temperature of the phase transition. The Er-implanted samples, however, were found to have broader hysteresis and lower switching contrasts than the pure VO2 samples. It is concluded that although Er-implanted VO2 could probably work as a combined optical switch and amplifier, the poorer switching qualities do not guarantee that a device based on the material could provide better utility than a separated system of optical switches and Er amplifiers. The Er3+ luminescence could also be utilized for quantum frequency conversion, for implementation in interconnects that interface superconducting quantum computers to a fiber-optic quantum network. For two superconducting quantum computers to be able to communicate over a fiber-optic quantum network, the frequency of the signals transmitted from either computer needs to be converted into the fiber-optic frequency, and then back into the microwave frequency upon receipt at the other computer. Early proposals suggested that the interconnect be at least comprised of Er3+ ions, a microwave resonator, and an optical resonator. The realization of this system has been attempted recently in basic experiments, but the conversion efficiency was found to be too low. The weak couplings between the Er3+ ions and the two resonators were identified as one of the main reasons for the low conversion efficiency. One way to mitigate the weak coupling in the microwave part is to have a superconducting flux qubit bridge the interaction between the Er3+ ions and the microwave resonator. The second part of this thesis presents a theoretical and simulation study of the dynamics of a coupled system consisting of Er3+ ions, a superconducting microwave resonator, an optical resonator, and a superconducting flux qubit. It is shown that quantum information can be exchanged between the Er3+ ions and the microwave resonator with a high fidelity via the qubit coupling, and the exchange process is controllable by changing the frequency of the qubit. The frequency conversion between the microwave and the optical regime is shown to be infeasible to be realized at the limit where the number of optical excitations (n) is much less than the number of ions (N). A high-efficiency frequency down-conversion is demonstrated to be achievable in the case where there is no decoherence, and both n and N are small. However, the time it takes to complete the down-conversion is very long, leaving the efficiency prone to decoherence. It is argued that for the frequency conversion to be able to be accomplished in a typical decoherent environment, both n and N need to be large. The study of the dynamics, in this case, is left for future research.