Entanglement-free Heisenberg-limited phase estimation

B. L. Higgins, D. W. Berry, S. D. Bartlett, H. M. Wiseman, G. J. Pryde*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    492 Citations (Scopus)


    Measurement underpins all quantitative science. A key example is the measurement of optical phase, used in length metrology and many other applications. Advances in precision measurement have consistently led to important scientific discoveries. At the fundamental level, measurement precision is limited by the number N of quantum resources (such as photons) that are used. Standard measurement schemes, using each resource independently, lead to a phase uncertainty that scales as 1/√N - known as the standard quantum limit. However, it has long been conjectured that it should be possible to achieve a precision limited only by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, dramatically improving the scaling to 1/N (ref. 3). It is commonly thought that achieving this improvement requires the use of exotic quantum entangled states, such as the NOON state. These states are extremely difficult to generate. Measurement schemes with counted photons or ions have been performed with N ≤ 6 (refs 6-15), but few have surpassed the standard quantum limit and none have shown Heisenberg-limited scaling. Here we demonstrate experimentally a Heisenberg-limited phase estimation procedure. We replace entangled input states with multiple applications of the phase shift on unentangled single-photon states. We generalize Kitaev's phase estimation algorithm using adaptive measurement theory to achieve a standard deviation scaling at the Heisenberg limit. For the largest number of resources used (N = 378), we estimate an unknown phase with a variance more than 10 dB below the standard quantum limit; achieving this variance would require more than 4,000 resources using standard interferometry. Our results represent a drastic reduction in the complexity of achieving quantum-enhanced measurement precision.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)393-396
    Number of pages4
    Issue number7168
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2007


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