Physics at Virginia

Olivier Pfister

Ph.D., 1993, Paris-North

Experimental Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics,Experimental Quantum Information

Research Interests

Olivier Pfister’s research focuses on experimental quantum optics and quantum information. The quantum nature of light (the existence of photons) is a fascinating subject which has turned into a mature experimental field since its inception in the eighties. The research by Pfister’s group, “Quantum Fields and Quantum Information” (QFQI), aims at blazing new trails into the realm of quantum information. In particular, QFQI and their theory collaborators, Nicolas Menicucci and Steven Flammia at the University of Sydney, discovered a new, highly scalable experimental paradigm for the implementation of quantum computing: building a quantum register out of the multitude of resonant fields (“Qmodes”) of a single optical cavity. The QFQI group and collaborators have achieved the preliminary step of “quantum computing over the optical frequency comb” (or “over the rainbow”...) by demonstrating, in the lab, the quantum correlations necessary for quantum computing, known as cluster-state entanglement, in 60 "qumodes," the continuous-variable analogue of qubits (quantum bits). This size is only bounded by current measurement limitations and Pfister and his group expect the actual size of the cluster state to be several thousands of qumodes. Work is now underway toward the creation of even larger cluster entangled states and their use for nontrivial quantum processing.

In addition to this work on continuous-variable entanglement, QFQI has also established a collaboration with the group of Dr. Sae Woo Nam at NIST toward the construction of a photon-number-resolved detector system which has been completed and installed in the QFQI lab. Using this unique machine, we have carried out quantum state tomography experiments and reconstructed the Wigner quasiprobability function of classical and nonclassical (Fock) states of light, We thus seek to attack the study of quantum fields from their purely particle aspect, as an epitome of the complementarity principle first put forth by Niels Bohr, and we are striving to understand the deep connections between the multipartite entanglement of continuous variables with that of discrete ones, as well as their interplay in hybrid application such as photon-added and subtracted squeezed states.

On the theoretical front, Pfister and Prof. Israel Klich have started a joint effort on the quantum simulation of condensed matter physics, and especially some of its intractable problems, using experimental quantum optics in the fullest sense, i.e., making full use of its undulatory and corpuscular nature.

Last but not least, the group has engaged in a collaboration with Profs. Joe Campbell and Andreas Beling in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the UVA School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. This work is centered on the design, fabrication, and characterization of cutting-edge photodetectors by Campbell and Beling, with utilization for quantum information applications in Pfister's group. Conversely, the question has been posed of whether the fundamental principal of quantum physics, such as Heisenberg inequalities, can be fully utilized to optimize detection design.

Professor Pfister's work has been funded continuously by NSF, and sporadically by DARPA, ARO, DoE, and the State of Virginia.

Selected Publications

R. Nehra, A. Win, M. Eaton, N. Sridhar, R. Shahrokhshahi, Th. Gerrits, A. Lita, S. W. Nam, and O. Pfister, State-independent quantum tomography by photon-number-resolving measurements, Optica 6, 1356 (2019).

J. Zang, Z. Yang, X. Xie, M. Ren, Y. Shen, Z. Carson, O. Pfister, A. Beling, and J. C. Campbell, High quantum efficiency uni-traveling-carrier photodiode, IEEE Photonics Technology Letters 29, 302 (2017).

R. N. Alexander, P. Wang, N. Sridhar, M. Chen, O. Pfister, and N. C. Menicucci, One-way quantum computing with arbitrarily large time-frequency continuous-variable cluster states from a single optical parametric oscillator, Physical Review A 94, 032327 (2016).

M. Chen, N.C. Menicucci, and O. Pfister, Experimental realization of multipartite entanglement of 60 modes of a quantum optical frequency comb, Physical Review Letters 112, 120505 (2014).

M. Pysher, Y. Miwa, R. Shahrokhshahi, R. Bloomer, and O. Pfister, Parallel generation of quadripartite cluster entanglement in the optical frequency comb, Physical Review Letters 107, 030505 (2011). Featured in Physics Today

R. Bloomer, M. Pysher, and O.Pfister, Nonlocal restoration of two-mode squeezing in the presence of strong optical loss, New Journal of Physics 13, 063014 (2011).

N.C. Menicucci, S.T. Flammia, and O. Pfister, One-way quantum computing in the optical frequency comb, Physical Review Letters 101, 130501 (2008). Spotlit in APS Physics and in Nature.

S. Feng and O. Pfister, Quantum interference of ultrastable twin optical beams, Physical Review Letters 92, 203601 (2004).

News Items

In an interview for the Optical Society of America’s “OSA Stories,” Olivier Pfister gives his perspective on the importance of providing graduate school opportunities for ......More >
UVAToday has a nice article highlighting UVa's expertise in quantum optical physics and photonics engineering: A University of Virginia physics professor and three ......More >
Moran Chen is one of two recipients of the 2014 Allen T. Gwathmey Memorial Award, an honor reserved for the most accomplished graduate students in the sciences at the University of Virginia in ......More >
Dear Colleagues,We have learned from APS that four of our colleagues - Paul Fendley, Seunghun Lee, Olivier Pfister and Hank Thacker have been electedAPS Fellows 2013. Please join me in ......More >
From UVa Today:"Pfister, professor of physics in the College, is a noted researcher in quantum information and quantum computing. The development of quantum computers, one of the most ......More >
From Network World:"My work with optical fields has demonstrated good preliminary control over 60 qubit equivalents, which we call 'Qmodes' and has the potential to scale to thousands of ......More >
From UVaToday:Olivier Pfister, a professor of physics in the University of Virginia's College of Arts & Sciences, has just published findings in the journal Physical Review Letters ......More >


APS Fellow [2013]
For his groundbreaking contributions to quantum optics applied to quantum information and precision measurements, including his discovery of the use of the quantum optical frequency comb of a single optical resonator as a support for massively scalable quantum information.
UVA Distinguished Research Award [2013]
2nd Place, JILA Clever Idea Conest [1996]