One photon-per-bit receiver using near-noiseless phase-sensitive amplification
Journal article, 2020

Space communication for deep-space missions, inter-satellite data transfer and Earth monitoring requires high-speed data connectivity. The reach is fundamentally dictated by the available transmission power, the aperture size, and the receiver sensitivity. A transition from radio-frequency links to optical links is now seriously being considered, as this greatly reduces the channel loss caused by diffraction. A widely studied approach uses power-efficient formats along with nanowire-based photon-counting receivers cooled to a few Kelvins operating at speeds below 1 Gb/s. However, to achieve the multi-Gb/s data rates that will be required in the future, systems relying on pre-amplified receivers together with advanced signal generation and processing techniques from fibre communications are also considered. The sensitivity of such systems is largely determined by the noise figure (NF) of the pre-amplifier, which is theoretically 3 dB for almost all amplifiers. Phase-sensitive optical amplifiers (PSAs) with their uniquely low NF of 0 dB promise to provide the best possible sensitivity for Gb/s-rate long-haul free-space links. Here, we demonstrate a novel approach using a PSA-based receiver in a free-space transmission experiment with an unprecedented bit-error-free, black-box sensitivity of 1 photon-per-information-bit (PPB) at an information rate of 10.5 Gb/s. The system adopts a simple modulation format (quadrature-phase-shift keying, QPSK), standard digital signal processing for signal recovery and forward-error correction and is straightforwardly scalable to higher data rates. Space communication: Opening optical links Communication links for deep-space exploration spacecraft and satellites could become more efficient using an optical system which can reduce signal losses during transmission and delivers one bit of data per each received photon at a rate of 10 gigabits per second. Peter Andrekson and colleagues at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden developed the system and demonstrated its potential in laboratory scale experiments. It relies on a technology known as phase-sensitive optical amplification. The researchers transmitted signals across only a one meter, but they believe their work proves the validity of a process that could readily be scaled up for communication across space. Replacing current radio-frequency technology with more effective optical systems could meet the demands of future space communications systems, which will need to operate at higher data rates and across greater distances.


Ravikiran Kakarla

Chalmers, Microtechnology and Nanoscience (MC2), Photonics

Jochen Schröder

Chalmers, Microtechnology and Nanoscience (MC2), Photonics

Peter Andrekson

Chalmers, Microtechnology and Nanoscience (MC2), Photonics

Light: Science and Applications

2047-7538 (eISSN)

Vol. 9 1 153

Free-space optical transmission links with unprecedented receiver sensitivity (FREESPACE)

European Commission (EC) (EC/H2020/813236), 2018-11-01 -- 2020-04-30.

Noiseless phase-sensitive optical amplifiers and their applications

Swedish Research Council (VR) (2015-00535), 2016-01-01 -- 2025-12-31.

Subject Categories


Communication Systems

Signal Processing



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