Rydberg Ensembles for Quantum Networking

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Rydberg ensembles, atomic clouds with one or more atoms excited to a Rydberg state, have proven to be a good platform for the study of photon-photon interactions. This is due to the nonlinearities they exhibit at the single photon level arising from Rydberg-Rydberg interactions. As a result, they have shown promise for use in a multitude of applications, among them quantum networking.

In this thesis I describe the construction and operation of an apparatus for the purpose of cooling, trapping and probing Rydberg ensemble physics in a cloud of ${}^{87}\textrm{Rb}$ atoms. In addition, I describe a pair of projects undertaken with the apparatus. In the first, I report our demonstration of a Rydberg ensemble based on-demand single photon source. Here, we make use of Rydberg blockade to allow us to prepare a single collective Rydberg excitation in the cloud. The spin wave excitation is then retrieved by coherently mapping it onto a propagating photon. Our source is highly pure and efficient, while producing narrow bandwidth and indistinguishable photons. Such sources are important devices for the purposes of quantum networking, computation and metrology. Following from this, I describe a collaborative project where we show time resolved Hong-Ou-Mandel interference between photons produced by our Rydberg ensemble source, and a collaborators source based on a single trapped barium ion. This demonstration is a critical step in the entanglement, and hybrid quantum networking, of these two disparate systems.