Light, and the photons that comprise it, play a crucial role in countless processes we depend on every day—from photosynthesis to data transmission. Today’s communication technologies rely especially heavily on light. These technologies are in large part based upon colour multiplexing and binary on/off coding inside optical fibres (Colour and binary refer to the wavelength and polarization of light, respectively.) But traditional information encoding and decoding schemes like these have drawbacks, such as a lack of data security. They have also reached their fundamental limits when it comes to carrying information.
Dr. Ebrahim Karimi, Canada Research Chair in Structured Light, is trying to extend these limits. Karimi and his research team are designing and making novel optical and plasmonic devices that can structure single photons and optical beams. (Plasmonics is the study of how light and matter interact.) Since these devices can hold limitless amounts of information, they have the potential to offer solutions to the capacity limitations of conventional transmission techniques.
By developing these devices, Karimi’s research will lead to a more efficient and compact way to structure light for applications such as quantum computation, quantum information, nano-sensing, and super-dense coding. Ultimately, these devices could open the door to developing ultra-secure communication schemes and ways of transmitting sensitive messages rapidly across the globe.