Quantum network connects young scientists from Russia and U.S.
ITMO University and the University of Rochester became close friends several years ago. One of the first outcomes of this mutually beneficial partnership was the creation of International Institute of Photonics and Optical Information Technologies led by Prof. Sergei Kozlov and Prof. Xi-Cheng Zhang. Scientific collaboration in this new structure involves three main fields of research: femtosecond optics and technologies, quantum information technologies, and terahertz biomedicine. Two years ago an International Education Program was launched, which allowed promising Russian students to take one year in Rochester during Coursework MS program in Optical Design and Engineering. The pioneers of this exchange were Andrei Gaidash and Maksim Melnik; who went to USA in 2014 and became owners of MS degrees diplomas of both universities. At the end of May 2016, three more students returned to Russia with same honors.
At the same time, the program opened the doors to American students for visiting Saint Petersburg and participating in real-life experimental research activities. Undergraduate students from the Institute of Optics travel to Russia for summer practice at the “Research Summer camp in Photonics”, giving them a unique opportunity to take part in cutting edge scientific research and gain additional experience in laboratory work. This summer, ITMO University welcomed nine Rochester students, who selected topics of their projects for the following two weeks. The research directions covered all areas of science the two universities are cooperating in.
For instance, Huiyan Li, a first year bachelor, worked in Femtosecond optics and technology laboratory, where she studied nonlinear properties of photochromic glass used for eye protection from intensive optical radiation. The research was performed with state-of-the-art femtosecond pump-probe spectroscopy instrumentation that used supercontinuum for pumping. Three students were involved in studying digital holography images. Li Guoxin compared two algorithms for reconstructing off-axis digital holograms used in image plane configuration. Liu Weidi participated in a project dedicated to improving the Terahertz Pulse Time-Domain Holography (THz PTDH) method that was proved perspective for phase imaging in the terahertz frequency range. The work done by Weidi will allow increasing measurement speed by several times. Xia Zhenhi chose wavefront adaptive optimization through scattering media as her topic. She participated in creating a device for focusing optical radiation in highly scattering media at centimeter depth. This approach is very perspective for many biomedical applications, such as photodynamic therapy. Other research branches included investigation of optical properties of artificial media, simulation of optical devices on basis of transformation optics and studying optical properties of bio-tissues and cells, which were covered by Ma Shiyu, Song Wanyue and Yu Lu. Two of the nine guests, Eric Herbert and Barry Magenya, picked a project in the field of quantum information technologies. Eric investigated the properties of perspective single-photon sources, while Barry focused on technological features of high-speed quantum communication systems. Most of the time, they were working in pair and carried out all experiments together. At the end of the course, the students presented their projects before scientific staff of the department and answered the questions.
In 2016, an icing on the cake was educational practice on the first Russian quantum network. Launched in 2014, it connects two buildings of ITMO University through standard telecommunication fibers. Quantum communication networks offer unique possibilities for users to exchange information through optical links that cannot be eavesdropped thanks to the laws of quantum physics that do not allow quantum signal carriers – single photons – to be split or copied. Prior to becoming quantum network operators, the students learned features of quantum key distribution during lectures and participated in seminars about several closely related topics, such as quantum optical instrumentation, which allowed then to understand the setup, successfully perform measurements, and finally exchange the encrypted messages that contained the logos of both universities. The measured sifted key rate reached 1 Mbit/s on a 1.6 dB line connecting two ITMO buildings through a standard underground optical cable. Both Barry and Eric were thrilled to take part in this event, since there are currently only a few quantum networks in world, most of them not used for education. ITMO University was proud to provide a unique possibility for the U.S. students to learn something new and acquire outstanding skills, and hopes that their collaboration with University of Rochester will continue to thrive.
By PhD Vladimir Egorov