Semiconductor Quantum Photonics: Control of Spin, Exciton and Photon Interactions by Nano-Photonic Design

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy

Abstract

We seek to exploit the highly advantageous properties of III-V semiconductors to achieve agenda setting advances in the quantum science and technology of solid state materials. We work in the regime of next generation quantum effects such as superposition and entanglement, where III-V systems have many favourable attributes, including strong interaction with light, picosecond control times, and microsecond coherence times before the electron wavefunction is disturbed by the environment.
We employ the principles of nano-photonic design to access new regimes of physics and potential long term applications. Many of these opportunities have only opened up in the last few years, due to conceptual and fabrication advances. The conceptual advances include the realisation that quantum emitters emit only in one direction if precisely positioned in an optical field, that wavepackets which propagate without scattering may be achieved by specific design of lattices, and that non-linearities are achievable at the level of one photon and that quantum blockade can be realised where one particle blocks the passage of a second.
The time is now right to exploit these conceptual advances. We combine this with fabrication advances which allow for example reconfigurable devices to be realised, with on-chip control of electronic and photonic properties. We take advantage of the highly developed III-V fabrication technology, which underpins most present day solid-state light emitters, to achieve a variety of chip-based quantum physics and device demonstrations.
Our headline goals include reconfigurable devices at the single photon level, a single photon logic gate based on the fully confined states in quantum dots positioned precisely in nano-photonic structures, and coupling of states by designed optical fields, taking advantage of the reconfigurable capability, to enhance or suppress optical processes. Quantum dots also have favourable spin (magnetic moments associated with electrons) properties. We plan to achieve spins connected together by photons in an on-chip geometry, a route towards a quantum network, and long term quantum computer applications. As well as quantum dots, III-V quantum wells interact strongly with light to form new particles termed polaritons. We propose to open the new field of topological polaritonics, where the nano-photonic design of lattices leads to states which are protected from scattering and where artificial magnetic fields are generated. This opens the way to new coupled states of matter which mimic the quantised Hall effects, but in a system with fundamentally different wavefunctions from electrons.
Finally our programme also depends on excellent crystal growth. We target one of the main issues limiting long term scale up of quantum dot technologies, namely site control. We will employ two approaches, which involve a combination of patterning, cleaning and crystal growth to define precisely the quantum dot location, both based around the formation of pits to seed growth in predetermined locations. Success here will be a major step in bringing semiconductor quantum optics into line with the position enjoyed by the majority of established semiconductor technologies where scalable lithographic processes have been a defining feature of their impact.

Planned Impact

We will achieve impact in three directions: Industrial Engagement, Policy Maker and Public Engagement, and Training.

Industrial engagement: The links with our industrial project partners provide immediate routes. Toshiba are the principal company engaged in Quantum Science and Technology research in the UK. We already have an InnovateUK grant with them. In the new grant Toshiba will be active participants with direct involvement, leading to very profitable industrial engagement. The Toshiba interactions also provide a clear exploitation route, most directly for the site-deterministic quantum dot growth work. We also have close involvement with Hitachi, with a high level of scientific collaboration over the last four years (6 joint publications); this will continue strongly in a new grant. We will have active engagement with the Quantum Technology Hubs at York and Oxford. Participation in their Open Days and User Forums will provide excellent opportunities to build links to their wide networks of industry supporters, as proposed in letters from their Directors. One day visits will be made to companies to inform them of our outputs. We have several working models on quantum science and its applications. These will be taken to the companies to show during the visit, and offered on loan for periods of one to two weeks. In addition, two one day conferences will be organised to which industrial personnel will be invited, further promoting Impact.

Policy maker and public engagement: In the last 2-3 years our activities have had many aspects which we will continue strongly in a new grant. We have produced three widely viewed YouTube videos (>35000 hits). The videos were a major factor in our being chosen for an exhibit at the Royal Society Summer Exhibition (RSSE) in 2015, attended by >15000 people. As part of the RSSE we prepared four hands-on demonstrations on Quantum Light, a significant resource for future outreach. The participation at the RSSE and the existence of the demonstrations were significant factors in our being chosen to make a presentation to the Science Minister Jo Johnson in July 2015. We have also given a BBC-radio interview on quantum physics, have met with local MPs and MEPs and given secondary school outreach talks. Such activities will be strongly pursued in a new grant. These include presentation at other science festivals using some of the existing demonstrations but refreshed to include new ones, to prepare additional YouTube videos, and to apply for a RSSE presentation in 2018/19. We will build on our contacts with a BBC producer to achieve further BBC interviews, and will target meetings with additional MPs, beyond those we have met with in the last 3 years (local MPs, MEPs).

Training of highly qualified personnel: We will train 8 postdoctoral workers and 15 PhD students to high levels in physics, optics, fabrication and crystal growth, during the course of the grant. All these topic areas are highly relevant industrially and academically. The researchers will receive considerable training in oral presentation skills, both internally, and externally at international conferences. This will be accompanied by much practice in writing up results for publication. The training in professional skills will be supplemented by encouraging attendance at university-run courses in written and presentational skills and CV preparation. The combination of participation in research at a high level, together with the oral, written and organisational skills described above, will prepare outgoing members very well for future careers in industry and academia. In the last 10 years, 40 former members of the Sheffield group have taken up positions in industry and academia (~50/50 split), including 5 at Oclaro, 3 at Toshiba, and 1 each at Hitachi, Intel, Huawei, Sagentia, Attocube, AMRC, EDF, Phase Focus and NPL showing the range of skill-sets we transfer to our researchers to be much in demand.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description 1. New quantum optics phenomena observed in wave guide structures.
2. Record low lifetimes for quantum dots.
3. Polariton gain observed.
4. Polariton phase transition demonstrated.
5. Site control of quantum dots achieved.
Exploitation Route Through the UK Quantum Technologies Programme. We are now members of the York Quantum Communications Hub.
Sectors Education,Electronics

 
Description The outputs from this grant were notable from the academic, public engagement and outreach and long-term industrial impacts points of view. On the academic side the group supported by the grant published 8 Nature family and 10 Physical review letters, top ranking physics journals, and gave 80 invited talks at international conferences, clear indications of its international academic impact. Its impact was also significant from the public engagement and outreach points of view. This had several different strands. These included the initiation of a series of YouTube videos suitable for the general public on topics related to the grant. These videos now have over 249,000 hits and continue up to the present day, with the most recent video on semiconductor quantum dots produced in 2022. We presented at several size festivals including the Royal Society summer science exhibition and the Cheltenham Science Festival. The Cheltenham Science Festival was notable since it was attended by the then Prime Minister Theresa May who visited our stand, when the opportunity was taken to stress the importance of quantum technologies to the Prime Minister. We also received a visit in Sheffield from the then Science minister Jo Johnson where again we focussed on the importance of quantum technologies. We also organised two visits from local MPs to our laboratories where we focussed on the importance of continued and sustained funding for science. In 2020 we launched The Sheffield Quantum Centre - https://quantum.shef.ac.uk/ - a university-wide collaboration of over 50 researchers developing quantum technologies with the potential to revolutionise computing, communication, sensing and imaging. Our device hardware is built using III-V semiconductors and we have world-leading capabilities in crystal growth, nanometre scale device fabrication and device physics research. Wider activities include complementary theory and software development. Finally we have also achieved significant impact from the industrial point of view based on some original findings from EP/J007544/1. Spin out company AegiQ was formed in early 2019. It has recently obtained considerable seed funding from investors, together with substantial Innovate UK funding, of total value in excess of £3M.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Education,Electronics
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Title Dataset for 'Ultrafast-nonlinear ultraviolet pulse modulation in an AlInGaN polariton waveguide operating up to room temperature' 
Description Data supporting the results published in 'Ultrafast-nonlinear ultraviolet pulse modulation in an AlInGaN polariton waveguide operating up to room temperature'. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2021 
Provided To Others? Yes  
URL https://figshare.shef.ac.uk/articles/dataset/Dataset_for_Ultrafast-nonlinear_ultraviolet_pulse_modul...
 
Title Dataset for 'Ultrafast-nonlinear ultraviolet pulse modulation in an AlInGaN polariton waveguide operating up to room temperature' 
Description Data supporting the results published in 'Ultrafast-nonlinear ultraviolet pulse modulation in an AlInGaN polariton waveguide operating up to room temperature'. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2021 
Provided To Others? Yes  
URL https://figshare.shef.ac.uk/articles/dataset/Dataset_for_Ultrafast-nonlinear_ultraviolet_pulse_modul...
 
Company Name AEGIQ LTD 
Description Aegiq is developing a new generation of networking solutions utilising quantum security and data links. Using our proprietary hybrid photonics platform we aim to solve key bottlenecks for communications both in space and on ground. Recently spun out from The University of Sheffield and backed by leading venture capital funds we are currently recruiting a cross-disciplinary product development team. 
Year Established 2019 
Impact From Aegiq Press Release dated 20 Jan 2022 - Aegiq has today announced that it secured seed investment from an investor syndicate led by High-Tech Gründerfonds, with participation of Deepbridge Capital and business angel investors. Together, with existing funding from Innovate UK, the seed investment brings Aegiq's total available funding to over £3.5m ($4.8m). Having completed the first closing Aegiq is considering funds to join the second closing. Aegiq is a spin-out of the University of Sheffield, founded by a team consisting of CEO Dr. Max Sich, CTO Dr. Scott Dufferwiel, and CFO Andrii Iamshanov. It had recently won the prestigious Institute of Physics Business Start-Up Award for the development of its breakthrough quantum photonics platform using proprietary deterministic single-photon sources. Aegiq's platform technology enables a range of new R&D applications in quantum science, sensing, imaging and others, and is ready to service this market. The technology will be also developed into a new generation of networking with quantum security, including quantum key distribution (QKD), as well as large-scale quantum computing applications. Aegiq has been awarded funding for several projects supported by Quantum Technologies Challenge at Innovate UK (part of UK Research & Innovation), with total value of the funded consortia exceeding £20m. The funding includes QT Assemble - Integrated Quantum Technology Programme, and Innovate UK's multi-million grant to develop secure quantum communications for fibre-optic and satellite based applications.
Website https://www.aegiq.com/
 
Description Cheltenham Science Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The LDSD group took part in one of largest science festivals in the UK - the Cheltenham Science Festival, from the 6th to 11th of June 2017. We brought our improved 'Quantum Light' exhibition to the heart of the Discover Zone at the Town Hall in Cheltenham, where every day over 2,500 people came to learn about the latest science and technology. We enjoyed talking about the science behind our research on the physics underlying quantum computation devices utilising light and other related topics to a wide variety of people: from the youngest pre-school kids (who certainly enjoyed our newly designed colouring sets) to senior members of the public. We also had a chance to tell the Prime Minister (Theresa May) about our research during a surprise visit she made to Cheltenham on the 6th of June, which was covered in the press.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://ldsd.group.shef.ac.uk/quantum-light-at-cheltenham-science-festival/
 
Description Cheltenham Science Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 'Quantum Light' is an exhibit, which we created to tell the story of how we can use light for communication today, but most importantly how light can be used to build future quantum computing devices - this topic is at the core of our research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://twitter.com/ldsd_research/status/1136635125851217921?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Eembedded...
 
Description Discovery Night - University of Sheffield 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Discovery Night opens the University's laboratories and lecture theatres for an evening of science for the whole family.
We presented our Interactive 'Quantum Light Exhibition' and encouraged thousands of people to explore the exciting world of quantum light and hopefully inspired a number of them to become the next generation of quantum researchers. We were also thrilled to discover that so many attendees shared our excitement about quantum physics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
URL https://twitter.com/ldsd_research/status/1106646474887172098?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Eembedded...
 
Description EPSRC Showcasing Physical Sciences Impact Event 2019 (London) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Showcasing Physical Sciences Impact Event 2019 was an exciting opportunity to bring together the stakeholders of the physical sciences community to
celebrate the significant and wide-ranging impacts that arise from the breadth of physical sciences research: from the fundamental to the applied.
Our exhibit 'Communicating with Light' told the amazing story of how breakthroughs in physics gave us the modern internet and are enabling secure quantum communication.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.iop.org/impact-physical-sciences-showcased-iop#gref
 
Description Exploring STEM for Girls 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The Exploring STEM for Girls event is aimed at local female school pupils in a bid to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers through a variety of interactive experiments, demonstrations and workshops. Our researchers and PhD students presented the interactive 'Quantum Light Exhibit' - telling the next generation about Quantum Light and how we communicate securely. This annual event is hosted by the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University in a bid to inspire the next generation of female engineers and scientists. Explore STEM for Girls event is a chance for young females to experience the world of science, technology, engineering and maths
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://twitter.com/ldsd_research/status/1110904422824062977?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Eembedded...
 
Description Festival of the Mind 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Nearly 45,000 visitors have enjoyed Festival of the Mind, which brought together scientists and artist from across Sheffield and the region. Our group was lucky to be part of the festival by contributing to the 'Futurecade' exhibition. In particular, we presented 'An Artistic Journey into the Physics of Light', an exhibition of artworks inspired by the research activity of the whole Department of Physics and Astronomy including our group. The aim is to show how art and scientific research are complementary ways to interpret the same reality. We have also presented our project 'The Hidden Life of Light' and premiered or latest animation on 2D materials, which is part of our ongoing series of 'Quantum Animations'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://ldsd.group.shef.ac.uk/festival-of-the-mind-brings-art-and-science-together/#more-5107
 
Description New Scientist Live Manchester 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A mind-blowing festival of ideas and experiences held at Manchester Central Convention Complex with over 30 exhibits and features on the show floor. We presented our fun, interactive exhibits on 'Quantum Light'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://live.newscientist.com/
 
Description Pint of Science UK Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We took part in the launch event of 2018 Pint of Science, an annual science festival now being held at 32 cities across the UK. Our PhD students, Luca Sortino and David Hurst, helped organise the event and present part of our Quantum Light exhibit to the public at Sheffield Tap, where the event was held.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://ldsd.group.shef.ac.uk/quantum-light-at-pint-of-science-launch/#more-5910
 
Description Visit by Paul Blomfield MP 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Paul Blomfield MP kindly accepted our invitation to visit the group. We took this opportunity to talk about our research and the role Sheffield plays nationally and internationally in quantum science and quantum technologies, and to discuss the importance of maintaining global research links and the place of the UK in the scientific community.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://ldsd.group.shef.ac.uk/the-group-met-with-paul-blomfield-mp/
 
Description YouTube Channel - 'Quantum Light University of Sheffield' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Quantum Light University of Sheffield YouTube Channel has 248,934 views and 5.12k subscribers as of 13 March 2022
A series of bespoke videos/animations -
Making Quantum Light with Quantum Dots - 2022
Topological Quantum Error Correction - 2018
Timelapse Building an Optics Lab for Studies of 2D Materials - 2017
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018,2022
URL https://www.youtube.com/c/QuantumLightUniversityofSheffield/videos