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Proceedings Paper • Open Access

Demonstration and implications when 50% beam combiners can behave as 0% or 100% reflector/transmitter inside some interferometers

Paper Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to embolden students to raise basic questions regarding the feasibility of “indivisible single photon interference”. We do this by presenting experimental results of well-known classical Mach-Zehnder interferometer (MZI) under two different conditions of beam alignment. We routinely do such experiments in our laboratories. In the first case, we align the light beams on the beam combiner (BC) with their Poynting vectors as perfectly collinear. The 50% dielectric boundary can now transmit 100% of the energy of both the beams into either one of the two MZI output ports, depending upon the relative phase between the two beams combined on the BC from the opposite directions. The dielectric boundary layer actively re-directs the energy from one beam to the other. This is pure classical superposition effect. In the second case, we combine the two beams on the BC with a small intersecting angle. Now the BC functions as a 50% beam splitter to both the beams. One can see spatial fringes as the relative phase varies with spatial distance by placing a photo detector array after the BC. At very low intensity, the quantum properties of the photo detector will become apparent because the photo electrons are discrete and are always bound quantum mechanically to its host molecular assembly; and not because light is definitely quantized. Students can learn to distinguish the pedagogical difference between the Superposition Principle (linear sum of wave amplitudes) and the Superposition Effect (square modulus of the sum of all the wave-induced stimulations) as observable intensity variations due to interaction with materials, classical or quantum.

Paper Details

Date Published: 16 August 2017
PDF: 6 pages
Proc. SPIE 10452, 14th Conference on Education and Training in Optics and Photonics: ETOP 2017, 104521C (16 August 2017); doi: 10.1117/12.2267501
Show Author Affiliations
ChandraSekhar Roychoudhuri, Univ. of Connecticut (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 10452:
14th Conference on Education and Training in Optics and Photonics: ETOP 2017
Xu Liu; Xi-Cheng Zhang, Editor(s)

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