Meet our student: Alexey Horlach - Exploring the interaction of light and matter

21 Apr 2021

Exploring the interaction of light and matter

Alexey Horlach, who is 24 and from Belarus, came to Technion in the Fall of 2019 to pursue a Master’s degree in Nanotechnology and Nanoscience, later switching to a direct PhD track. Under the guidance of his supervisor, Prof. Ido Kaminer, Alexey is busy conducting ambitious, cutting-edge research on the quantum properties of light.

“The general goal of my research is to investigate the quantum features of light-matter interaction and apply this fundamental research to improve existing measurement techniques,” he explains. “Intriguing quantum properties of light that have been discovered over the past 30 years have found their applications only recently in the fast-growing fields of quantum communication, quantum computing, quantum cryptography, and quantum metrology.”

The primary goal of Alexey’s research is to develop a strong quantum interaction theory in extreme nonlinear optical processes. Quantum light is usually created using lasers with limited intensity to avoid destroying the material. Hoping to overcome this problem, Alexey is exploring the interaction of light and matter using extremely strong electromagnetic fields, in the expectation of obtaining an enhanced quantum light in this way.

“We showed that the quantum correlations created in the matter can be translated to intense laser light of related quantum correlations through the nonlinear light-matter interaction. Thus, we theoretically show the possibility of creating the first-ever realization of intense quantum light.” Although most of his research is theoretical, experimental studies of strong quantum light interaction are being conducted in parallel in Prof. Ido Kaminer’s research group.

The second goal of his research is to characterize the “quantumness” of the created light and how it differs from regular light. Conventional methods for quantum optical measurements (such as superconducting nanowires, silicon photodiodes, etc.) have drawbacks, especially at states of light that involve large numbers of photons and short timescales. Alexey is determined to surmount this hurdle by using an electron microscope where electrons interact with the quantum light, thereby enabling the properties of the quantum light to be reconstructed.

“This constitutes a fundamentally new kind of detector of the quantum nature of light. Our approach promises the best resolution in time of all existing approaches. Moreover, unlike conventional measurement techniques, where light is absorbed by the measurement device, in our technique, we do not destroy the light, and it gives us additional freedom and flexibility in manipulating and measuring the state of light.”

The third and final goal of Alexey’s research is to use the quantum electron interaction to develop a new probe of coherence properties of matter. His research group recently showed how electrons could be used to manipulate qubits and measure their quantum properties. “We found that preparing the free electrons using light pulses before they reach the qubit can enable both reading and writing the state of the qubit at a much higher resolution (in both space and time) than is possible in any other method.”

Horlach is aware that his goals are ambitious, but he echoes the approach expressed by his revered supervisor, Prof. Kaminer, that the objective of all research is to discover small details that can potentially make a large impact.