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Research focus: quantum optics, properties of light, quantum communication, optical components, quantum devices
Christine Silberhorn is a physicist. Her research focus is experimental quantum optics. She studies light and its exceptional properties. Together with her research group she has demonstrated many characteristic quantum properties of light. Beyond that, she develops optical systems for applications in quantum technology. Her research contributes to the understanding of quantum theory and the development of new quantum devices.
Many technical developments would not be possible without quantum optics. Quantum mechanical effects play an important role in navigation systems, lasers, the internet and mobile phone networks. Quantum optics studies the fundamentals of light, its properties and the interaction between electromagnetic radiation and matter. Light exhibits both wave and particle properties. Christine Silberhorn studies such quantum properties of light through the use of waveguides. Together with her research group she conducted the world's first experimental demonstration of entangled states (quantum correlations) in the wave property of light and the simultaneous existence of wave- and particle nature of nonclassical correlations (Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen states). A key property of entangled states is that changes to one particle necessarily have an effect on the other. Insights from quantum optics flow directly to developments in quantum technology.
Together with collaborating researchers, Christine Silberhorn also develops detectors that can count the number of photons contained in a pulse of light. In turn, information can be encoded in the light quanta, which thus can be used as information carriers. Quantum information enables secure and efficient information transfer between computers. Photons cannot be copied; as soon as the data has been read by one computer, the original “message” encoded onto the photons is destroyed. The transfer of information by sending single photons through the air or optical fibres (quantum communication) presents a new horizon in the security of information transfer.
To further her research, Christine Silberhorn and her group develop optical components (quantum devices) for single photons and photon pairs. These are the basis for most experiments in quantum optics. An important example is “quantum walks” which can be used to describe energy transport phenomena in biological systems as well as bringing understanding of the transport properties of quantum systems. For her work Silberhorn was awarded the Leibniz Prize of the DFG in 2011, the youngest scientist to receive such an award.
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