Communication with spatially modulated light through turbulent air across Vienna

Author(s): M. Krenn, R. Fickler, M. Fink, J. Handsteiner, M. Malik, T. Scheidl, R. Ursin, A. Zeilinger

Journal: New Journal of Physics

Volume: 16

Page(s): 113028

Year: 2014

DOI Number: 10.1088/1367-2630/16/11/113028

Link: Link to publication


The transverse spatial modes of light offer a large state-space with interesting physical properties. For exploiting it in future long-distance experiments, spatial modes will have to be transmitted over turbulent free-space links. Numerous recent lab-scale experiments have found significant degradation in the mode quality after transmission through simulated turbulence and consecutive coherent detection. Here we experimentally analyze the transmission of one prominent class of spatial modes, the orbital-angular momentum (OAM) modes, through 3 km of strong turbulence over the city of Vienna. Instead of performing a coherent phase-dependent measurement, we employ an incoherent detection scheme which relies on the unambiguous intensity patterns of the different spatial modes. We use a pattern recognition algorithm (an artificial neural network) to identify the characteristic mode pattern displayed on a screen at the receiver. We were able to distinguish between 16 different OAM mode superpositions with only ~1.7% error, and use them to encode and transmit small grey-scale images. Moreover, we found that the relative phase of the superposition modes is not affected by the atmosphere, establishing the feasibility for performing long-distance quantum experiments with the OAM of photons. Our detection method works for other classes of spatial modes with unambiguous intensity patterns as well, and can further be improved by modern techniques of pattern recognition.

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