Quantum channels in free-space, an essential prerequisite for fundamental tests of quantum mechanics and quantum technologies in open space, have so far been based on direct line-of-sight because the predominant approaches for photon-encoding, including polarization and spatial modes, are not compatible with randomly scattered photons. Here we demonstrate a novel approach to transfer and recover quantum coherence from scattered, non-line-of-sight photons analyzed in a multimode and imaging interferometer for time-bins, combined with photon detection based on a 8 × 8 single-photon-detector-array. The observed time-bin visibility for scattered photons remained at a high 95% over a wide scattering angle range of −450 to +450, while the individual pixels in the detector array resolve or track an image in its field of view of ca. 0.5°. Using our method, we demonstrate the viability of two novel applications. Firstly, using scattered photons as an indirect channel for quantum communication thereby enabling non-line-of-sight quantum communication with background suppression, and secondly, using the combined arrival time and quantum coherence to enhance the contrast of low-light imaging and laser ranging under high background light. We believe our method will instigate new lines for research and development on applying photon coherence from scattered signals to quantum sensing, imaging, and communication in free-space environments.
© Light: Science and Applications, originally published as: Sajeed, S., & Jennewein, T. (2021). Observing quantum coherence from photons scattered in free-space. Light: Science & Applications, 10(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41377-021-00565-y