24 March 2017 Congratulations to New ICFO PhD graduate

Dr. Emanuele Distante

Thesis Committee

Dr. Emanuele Distante graduated with a thesis in “A Quantum Light-Matter Interface with Rydberg Polaritons in a Cold Atomic Ensamble” Dr. Emanuele Distante received his Master degree in Physics from the Università degli studi di Milano, Italy, before joining the Quantum Photonics with Solids and Atoms research group led by Dr. Prof. at ICFO Hugues de Riedmatten. At ICFO, he centred his doctoral work on Quantum Optics studying and investigating in the field of Quantum Non-Linear Optics at the single photon level with Cold Rydberg Atoms. Dr. Emanuele Distante’s Thesis, entitled “A Quantum Light-Matter Interface with Rydberg Polaritons in a Cold Atomic Ensamble” has been supervised by ICREA Prof. at ICFO Hugues de Riedmatten.


Nonlinear optics at the single-photon level enables deterministic photon-photon interaction, a long-standing goal in quantum photonics science. Besides its implication in fundamental aspects of physics, this would unlock several applications in quantum information science. A relevant example are deterministic Bell state measurements, which find a prominent application in long-distance quantum communications using quantum repeater architecture. Toward this goal, we built a highly nonlinear system based on Rydberg excited states of a cold atomic ensemble and electromagnetically induced transparency (EIT).

Our work first focuses on the storage of weak coherent light pulses in the atomic ensemble analysing the resulting nonlinear response of the medium. Then we demonstrate storage and retrieval of a paired single photon by coupling the Rydberg ensemble with a second remote cold atomic based quantum memory. Our set-up is based on magneto-optically trapped 87Rb atoms cooled down to temperature of 50 to 100 uK, with a cloud density of 10 ^(10) cm^(-3). Using EIT, light pulses are slowed down, stored as Rydberg collective atomic excitation and retrieved. We characterize EIT, slow-light and light-storage on a variety of Rydberg states, from the 26S up to the 80S. Depending on the state, the typical storage efficiency observed is of the order of few percents at a storage time of ~200 ns while the typical 1/e coherence time is of ~2us.

By studying the optical response at different mean probe photon number, we have examined the Rydberg induced nonlinearity in EIT, slow-light and stored-light case for different Rydberg states. In particular, we have measured the nonlinear Rydberg induced dephasing of a stored collective Rydiberg state. For few microseconds storage time we have measured nonlinear response at the order of tens of photons. Our results show that light-storage enhances the nonlinear response of the atomic ensemble when compared to the slow light case, this possibly facilitating photonic quantum information processing using Rydberg excited atoms.

Finally, we have used a separated cold atomic quantum memory to generate pair of correlated single photons. One photon of the pair is stored as single collective Rydberg atomic excitation and we show that non-classical correlations between the two photons and the single-photon statistic persist after the retrieval from the Rydberg ensemble. This result marks an important step towards deterministic photon-photon interactions. At the same time, linking a quantum memory with a highly nonlinear system may enable deterministic distribution of entanglement over long-distance using quantum repeaters.

Thesis Committee

Prof. Sebastian Hofferberth, University of Stuttgart

Prof. Dr. Darrick Chang, ICFO Group Leader

Dr. Jonathan Pritchard, University of Strathclyde