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Measuring, processing, and generating partially coherent light with self-configuring optics

Charles Roques-CarmesShanhui FanDavid Miller
Feb 2024
Optical phenomena always display some degree of partial coherence between their respective degrees of freedom. Partial coherence is of particular interest in multimodal systems, where classical and quantum correlations between spatial, polarization, and spectral degrees of freedom can lead to fascinating phenomena (e.g., entanglement) and be leveraged for advanced imaging and sensing modalities (e.g., in hyperspectral, polarization, and ghost imaging). Here, we present a universal method to analyze, process, and generate spatially partially coherent light in multimode systems by using self-configuring optical networks. Our method relies on cascaded self-configuring layers whose average power outputs are sequentially optimized. Once optimized, the network separates the input light into its mutually incoherent components, which is formally equivalent to a diagonalization of the input density matrix. We illustrate our method with arrays of Mach-Zehnder interferometers and show how this method can be used to perform partially coherent environmental light sensing, generation of multimode partially coherent light with arbitrary coherency matrices, and unscrambling of quantum optical mixtures. We provide guidelines for the experimental realization of this method, paving the way for self-configuring photonic devices that can automatically learn optimal modal representations of partially coherent light fields.
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