Plans to commercialise quantum single-photon sources discussed at EPIC event

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A French start-up detailing its hopes of being the first to commercialise quantum single-photon light sources represents the first time EPIC has focused on quantum technology at one of its events.

Valerian Giesz, the co-founder of Quandela, gave a talk during the EPIC World Technology Summit, which took place on 30-31 August in Brussels, on how commercial single-photon light sources will boost research in quantum optics and allow the emergence of further photonics innovations.

Dr Jose Pozo, EPIC’s director of technology and innovation, said the decision to include quantum in this event, and in future conferences and meetings, stemmed from the extension of interest in the technology from the scientific community into the wider commercial world.

‘EPIC always concentrates on technologies that have a time to market of three years or less – we really want to have companies talking and establishing products that will enter the market in a short timeframe. We focus on industry, and industry demands speed. This is why we never wanted to go into the blue sky area,’ Pozo commented.

‘However, we realised after talking to our members that now is the time to address quantum, because many of our members are investing heavily in this technology.’

It’s not only industry that’s heavily investing in quantum, but governments as well. The European Commission has recently launched its €1 billion 10-year quantum flagship programme, while the UK launched its quantum programme back in 2013.

Scaling up optical quantum technologies requires efficient quantum light sources, such as single-photon sources delivering no more than one photon per pulse with the highest repetition rate. For some applications, the generated photons must also be identical in all there degrees of freedom, according to Giesz.

Quandela was founded in 2017 as a spinoff from the Center of Nanosciences and Nanotechnologies (CNRS/UPSud), with the aim of commercialising quantum light sources to boost research in quantum optics, allow the emergence of further innovations in photonics, and to participate to the scaling up of quantum technologies outside the academic world.

The start-up is targeting the photonic integrated circuits (PICs) and space communications for its semiconductor single photon sources, and claims it will have the very first sources in the market in 2020.

Pozo noted that several members of the audience could potentially help Quandela enter these markets – such as those from PIC foundries, packaging specialists, and free space optics companies – demonstrating how almost every area of photonics is linked and that networking opportunities within the photonics industry are so important.

Another growth area that was discussed at the summit was the emergence of VCSELs into applications outside of telecoms, such as the consumer market, which has created new opportunities for photonics companies. With tech giants such as Apple now integrating the devices into its phones for facial recognition, production volumes have gone up considerably in the last couple of years.

Benno Oderkerk, CEO of spectroscopy firm Avantes and president of EPIC, said that in-line production testing of VSCELs will be a huge market for Avantes going forwards, along with medical, environmental, and laser manufacturing.

In addition, Lucas Redlarski, chief scientist at Mitutoyo, discussed the metrology challenges and needs for the manufacturing of optics and photonic devices, and Robert Huang, CEO of Wavelength Opto-Electronic, commented that even for laser optics, which is not a consumer market, volumes are becoming large enough that firms will need to invest in automating production in the future.

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