Measuring the Photon Coalescence Time Window in the Continuous-Wave Regime for Resonantly Driven Semiconductor Quantum Dots

Abstract : We revisit Mandel's notion that the degree of coherence equals the degree of indistinguishability by performing Hong-Ou-Mandel-(HOM-)type interferometry with single photons elastically scattered by a cw resonantly driven excitonic transition of an InAs/GaAs epitaxial quantum dot. We present a comprehensive study of the temporal profile of the photon coalescence phenomenon which shows that photon indistinguishability can be tuned by the excitation laser source, in the same way as their coherence time. A new figure of merit, the coa-lescence time window, is introduced to quantify the delay below which two photons are indistinguishable. This criterion sheds new light on the interpretation of HOM experiments under cw excitation, particularly when pho-ton coherence times are longer than the temporal resolution of the detectors. The photon indistinguishability is extended over unprecedented time scales beyond the detectors' response time, thus opening new perspectives to conducting quantum optics with single photons and conventional detectors. Indistinguishable photons are one of the keys for the implementation of scalable quantum information systems [1, 2]. Indistinguishability is investigated using the coalescence phenomenon: two photons with similar spectral, spatial and polarization properties will bunch when arriving simultaneously on two opposite sides of a beam splitter. One of the pioneers of photon coalescence, Mandel, stated in 1991 that the degree of coherence equals the degree of indistinguishability [3, 4] by investigating theoretically the interference of two light sources, thus underlining the fundamental link of the wave-particle duality of light. In a two-photon interference Hong-Ou-Mandel (HOM) experiment [5], the photons from two sources are combined at the two inputs of a beam splitter and the coalescence will be detected through a drop of the coincidence rate at the outputs—the HOM dip. Under pulsed excitation, perfect temporal matching between the arrival times of the photons at the beam splitter will allow for the observation of the HOM dip. When working with a two-level system, its coherence time T 2 and its lifetime T 1 are tightly linked to the photon indistin-guishability. For example, perfect coalescence giving rise to a zero value in the HOM dip is observed only if the radiative limit T 2 = 2T 1 is reached. The figure of merit under pulsed excitation is thus given by the ratio T 2 /2T 1 which constitutes a fundamental limit to the coalescence efficiency [6]. Under continuous wave (cw) excitation, with two ideal ultrafast detectors , the coincidence rate always vanishes at zero time delay , even for deviations in the properties of the photons [7]. In the case of real detectors, the indistinguishability is thus properly resolved only if the temporal resolution of the detectors T R is shorter than the coherence time of the photons [8]. If T R ∼ T 1 , T 2 , the HOM dip is strongly affected and will disappear completely in the limit of very slow detectors. With a cw source, the value at zero delay of the coincidence rate is thus very sensitive to T R and does not accurately characterize the intrinsic properties of the source with regard to photon indis-tinguishability. A new figure of merit has to be considered. Single semiconductor quantum dots (QD) [9], along with other systems under extensive study including atoms [7, 10], molecules [11–13], trapped ions [14, 15], and colored centers in diamond [16], are promising candidates for sources of single indistinguishable photons. In the case of semiconductor QDs, photon indistinguishability is either limited by the QD dynamics under pulsed excitation [6], or by the detec-tors' temporal resolution under cw excitation [17, 18]. Recent experimental studies focused on the regime of resonant Rayleigh scattering (RRS) under low power cw excitation, where the incoming photons are elastically scattered. This is a well-known phenomenon described by the two-level system resonance fluorescence theory [23], which has been observed with QDs [24–28]. As predicted by theory and shown by ho-modyne and heterodyne detection experiments [26–28], the scattered photons inherit the coherence time of the excitation laser T L , which can be much longer than T 2 and T R , while still exhibiting sub-Poissonian statistics [24, 25]. The resulting QD emission spectrum can then be much narrower than the natural linewidth imposed by the radiative limit, even if the percentage of elastically scattered photons remains limited to T 2 /2T 1 [Fig. 1(b)]. Considering that under such conditions the inherited coherence time surpasses T R , along with Man-del's notion that coherence equals indistinguishability [3], the RRS regime constitutes the ideal ground for the generation of highly indistinguishable photons.
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Physical Review Letters, American Physical Society, 2015, 114 (6), pp.067401. 〈10.1103/PhysRevLett.114.067411〉
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Raphael Proux, Maria Maragkou, Emmanuel Baudin, Christophe Voisin, Philippe Roussignol, et al.. Measuring the Photon Coalescence Time Window in the Continuous-Wave Regime for Resonantly Driven Semiconductor Quantum Dots. Physical Review Letters, American Physical Society, 2015, 114 (6), pp.067401. 〈10.1103/PhysRevLett.114.067411〉. 〈hal-01145042〉

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