Plasmon-assisted transmission of entangled photons

Nature. 2002 Jul 18;418(6895):304-6. doi: 10.1038/nature00869.


The state of a two-particle system is said to be entangled when its quantum-mechanical wavefunction cannot be factorized into two single-particle wavefunctions. This leads to one of the strongest counter-intuitive features of quantum mechanics, namely non-locality. Experimental realization of quantum entanglement is relatively easy for photons; a starting photon can spontaneously split into a pair of entangled photons inside a nonlinear crystal. Here we investigate the effects of nanostructured metal optical elements on the properties of entangled photons. To this end, we place optically thick metal films perforated with a periodic array of subwavelength holes in the paths of the two entangled photons. Such arrays convert photons into surface-plasmon waves--optically excited compressive charge density waves--which tunnel through the holes before reradiating as photons at the far side. We address the question of whether the entanglement survives such a conversion process. Our coincidence counting measurements show that it does, so demonstrating that the surface plasmons have a true quantum nature. Focusing one of the photon beams on its array reduces the quality of the entanglement. The propagation of the surface plasmons makes the array effectively act as a 'which way' detector.