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Journal Article

Communication with spatially modulated light through turbulent air across Vienna

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Krenn, M., Fickler, R., Fink, M., Handsteiner, J., Malik, M., Scheidl, T., et al. (2014). Communication with spatially modulated light through turbulent air across Vienna. New Journal of Physics, 16: 113028. doi:10.1088/1367-2630/16/11/113028.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-6453-9
Transverse spatial modes of light offer a large state- space with interesting physical properties. For exploiting these special modes in future long-distance experiments, the modes will have to be transmitted over turbulent free-space links. Numerous recent lab-scale experiments have found significant degradation in the mode quality after transmission through simulated turbulence and consecutive coherent detection. Here, we experimentally analyze the transmission of one prominent class of spatial modes-orbital-angular momentum (OAM) modes-through 3 km of strong turbulence over the city of Vienna. Instead of performing a coherent phase-dependent measurement, we employ an incoherent detection scheme, which relies on the unambiguous intensity patterns of the different spatial modes. We use a pattern recognition algorithm (an artificial neural network) to identify the characteristic mode patterns displayed on a screen at the receiver. We were able to distinguish between 16 different OAM mode superpositions with only a similar to 1.7% error rate and to use them to encode and transmit small grayscale images. Moreover, we found that the relative phase of the superposition modes is not affected by the atmosphere, establishing the feasibility for performing long-distance quantum experiments with the OAM of photons. Our detection method works for other classes of spatial modes with unambiguous intensity patterns as well, and can be further improved by modern techniques of pattern recognition.