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Optically heralded microwave photons
preprintposted on 2023-01-10, 03:04 authored by Wentao Jiang, Felix M. Mayor, Sultan Malik, Raphaël Van Laer, Timothy P. McKenna, Rishi N. Patel, Jeremy D. Witmer, Amir H. Safavi-Naeini
A quantum network that distributes and processes entanglement would enable powerful new computers and sensors. Optical photons with a frequency of a few hundred terahertz are perhaps the only way to distribute quantum information over long distances. Superconducting qubits on the other hand, which are one of the most promising approaches for realizing large-scale quantum machines, operate naturally on microwave photons that have roughly $40,000$ times less energy. To network these quantum machines across appreciable distances, we must bridge this frequency gap and learn how to generate entanglement across widely disparate parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. Here we implement and demonstrate a transducer device that can generate entanglement between optical and microwave photons, and use it to show that by detecting an optical photon we add a single photon to the microwave field. We achieve this by using a gigahertz nanomechanical resonance as an intermediary, and efficiently coupling it to optical and microwave channels through strong optomechanical and piezoelectric interactions. We show continuous operation of the transducer with $5\%$ frequency conversion efficiency, and pulsed microwave photon generation at a heralding rate of $15$ hertz. Optical absorption in the device generates thermal noise of less than two microwave photons. Joint measurements on optical photons from a pair of transducers would realize entanglement generation between distant microwave-frequency quantum nodes. Improvements of the system efficiency and device performance, necessary to realize a high rate of entanglement generation in such networks are within reach.