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Efficient, Scalable, and Robust Techniques for Interconnecting Optical Fibers and Photonic Integrated Circuit Waveguides at Milli-Kelvin Temperature


OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Integrated Sensing and Cyber; Integrated Network Systems-of-Systems OBJECTIVE: To develop techniques for efficient, reliable, and extensible routing of light from ambient conditions through optical fibers to quantum photonic integrated circuit waveguides at milli-Kelvin temperature. DESCRIPTION: Future quantum information networks will enable new capabilities for the DoD in regard to secure communications, information processing, sensing, positioning, navigation and timing. To achieve such functionality, these networks will require heterogeneous node technology, with different quantum technologies serving different functions – e.g. memory, processor, sensor, transceiver, and transducer devices. Accordingly, to realize such functionality efficient quantum interfaces must be developed between different qubit modalities, including technologies that work in the microwave domain and ones that primarily work at optical frequencies. As well, because microwave-regime quantum technologies (like superconducting and semiconducting qubits and quantum sensors), generally must be operated at cryogenic temperatures, efficient quantum interconnects between microwave and optical frequencies must be able to satisfy the engineering demands that derive from thermal gradients, heat loads, signal attenuation, and thermal cycling between ambient conditions and Kelvin and milli-Kelvin temperatures. A particularly critical and outstanding requirement in this regard is the engineering of efficient, reliable, and scalable (i.e. high density) interconnects between optical fibers and quantum integrated photonic circuit (QPIC) waveguides, transducers, detectors, and other QPIC elements that remain robust (i.e. continue to achieve key performance parameters) in the presence of differential thermal contraction and other variations due to temperature dependent materials parameters of optical fibers, adjoining media, and QPICs. Among other considerations, this requirement is essential for coherent quantum state transduction and heralded entanglement between cryogenic quantum processors on physically separated cryostats, efficient routing of light to superconducting photon sensors, and high throughput i/o data channels for classical electro-optical cryogenic signal routing and processing. In light of this, the call for proposals is seeking innovative technologies and/or processes thar will advance the development of low-loss cryogenic fiber interconnects to QPICs. The main objective is to obtain sub-dB coupling loss per connection to temperatures as low as 10 milli-Kelvin, typical of standard commercially available dilution refrigerators, with low-loss performance maintained over hundreds of thermal cycles. Moreover, the techniques should be compatible with a modular and extensible milli-kelvin platform, which entails the follow characteristics: small form factor, readily enabling installation of multi-converter units in a single cryostat; minimal need for tuning of interconnects after cool-down from ambient conditions (no tuning is the ideal target to achieve); and compatibility with state-of-the-art superconducting and semiconductor qubits and sensors for chip-level microwave-optical integration. While these techniques or processes may be at low technology readiness levels (e.g. TRL 3) by the end of Phase I, it is expected that a pathway to TRL maturation will be achieved through Phase II, with the potential for integration with heterogeneous quantum entanglement distribution testbeds in Phase III. PHASE I: Validate the product-market fit between the proposed solution and the proposed topic and define a clear and immediately actionable plan for running a trial with the proposed solution and the proposed AF customer. This feasibility study should: 1. Clearly identify who the prime (and additional) potential end user (e.g. Air Force, Army, etc.) is and articulate how they would use your solutions (i.e., the one who is most likely to be an early adopter, first user, and initial transition partner). 2. Deeply explore the problem or benefit areas, which are to be addressed by the solutions - specifically focusing on how this solution will impact the end user of the solution. 3. Define clear objectives and measurable key results for a potential trial of the proposed solution with the identified end users. 4. Clearly identify any additional specific stakeholders beyond the end users who will be critical to the success of any potential trial. This includes, but is not limited to, program offices, contracting offices, finance offices, information security offices and environmental protection offices. 5. Describe the cost and feasibility of integration with current mission-specific products. 6. Describe if and how the demonstration can be used by other DoD or governmental customers. 7. Describe technology related development that is required to successfully field the solution. 8. The funds obligated on the resulting Phase I STTR/SBIR contracts are to be used for the sole purpose of conducting a thorough feasibility study using scientific experiments, laboratory studies, commercial research and interviews. Prototypes may be developed with STTR/SBIR funds during Phase I studies to better address the risks and potential payoffs in innovative technologies. Phase I Base amount must not exceed $295,000 for a 12-month period of performance. PHASE II: Develop, integrate, and demonstrate a prototype system determined to be the most feasible solution during the Phase I feasibility study. This demonstration should focus specifically on: 1. Evaluating the proposed solution against the objectives and measurable key results as defined in the Phase I feasibility study. 2. Describing in detail how the solution can be scaled to be adopted widely (i.e. how can it be modified for scale). 3. A clear transition path for the proposed solution that takes into account input from all affected stakeholders including but not limited to: end users, engineering, sustainment, contracting, finance, legal, and cyber security. 4. Specific details about how the solution can integrate with other current and potential future solutions. 5. How the solution can be sustainable (i.e. supportability). 6. Clearly identify other specific DoD or governmental customers who want to use the solution. Phase II Base amount must not exceed $1,130,000 for a 24-month period of performance and the Option amount must not exceed $840,000 for a 12-month period of performance. PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Advancements of this technology would be of direct relevance to the DoD for construction and operation of heterogeneous quantum networking testbeds for studying the use of entanglement distribution for new capabilities in secure communications, information processing, sensing, positioning, navigation and timing. It would also have direct relevance to industry, including providing efficient means for the scaling of existing cryogenic components of commercial quantum processors. REFERENCES: 1. United States Air Force 2030 Science and Technology Strategy: Strengthening USAF Science and Technology for 2030 and Beyond. 2. A Coordinate Approach to Quantum Networking Research 3. Defense Science Board. Applications of Quantum Technologies KEYWORDS: Quantum communication; quantum information processing; quantum interconnects; transduction; quantum photonic integrated circuits; QPICS; superconducting qubits; superconducting sensors
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