Quantum-classical boundary for precision optical phase estimation

Patrick M. Birchall, Jeremy L. O'Brien, Jonathan C.F. Matthews, Hugo Cable

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
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Understanding the fundamental limits on the precision to which an optical phase can be estimated is of key interest for many investigative techniques utilized across science and technology. We study the estimation of a fixed optical phase shift due to a sample which has an associated optical loss, and compare phase estimation strategies using classical and nonclassical probe states. These comparisons are based on the attainable (quantum) Fisher information calculated per number of photons absorbed or scattered by the sample throughout the sensing process. We find that for a given number of incident photons upon the unknown phase, nonclassical techniques in principle provide less than a 20% reduction in root-mean-square error (RMSE) in comparison with ideal classical techniques in multipass optical setups. Using classical techniques in a different optical setup that we analyze, which incorporates additional stages of interference during the sensing process, the achievable reduction in RMSE afforded by nonclassical techniques falls to only ≃4%. We explain how these conclusions change when nonclassical techniques are compared to classical probe states in nonideal multipass optical setups, with additional photon losses due to the measurement apparatus.

Original languageEnglish
Article number062109
JournalPhysical Review A
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes


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