Student Spotlight: Saniya Deshpande - taking it one photon at a time

Saniya Deshpande

Saniya Deshpande
Specialty: Nanowire and quantum-dot based quantum light sources, LEDs and lasers
Advisor: Pallab Bhattacharya, Charles M. Vest Distinguished University Professor and James R. Mellor Professor of Engineering
Honors: Research highlighed in Semiconductor Today

“Michigan’s electrical engineering program has an excellent reputation in India, as does Prof. Pallab Bhattacharya, who is a world-renowned researcher in the field. That’s why I chose to come to Michigan,” said Saniya Deshpande.

Fig. 1
    An atomic force microscope image of a nanowire 
    single photon emitter.

Saniya is a PhD candidate conducting research in nanowire and quantum-dot based quantum light sources, LEDs and laser. One specific area of research in which she's already made a big impact is in quantum communications and quantum cryptography. She spends much of her time in the molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) lab and the clean room in the Lurie Nanofabrication Facility, where she builds electrically driven polarized single-photon emitters that produce one light particle at a time from a quantum dot in a single nanowire.

Basically, these are LED devices that produce one particle of light at a time for the purpose of advanced secure communications. The system’s ability to keep secrets is derived from the “observer-effect” in quantum physics, which states that observing a system always changes it. Therefore, if you encode and transmit a message one photon at a time the very act of an eavesdropper listening in jumbles the message. [press release about the research]

At the moment, these emitters only work in extremely cold temperatures. Saniya is now attempting to figure out how to get the emitter to work at room temperature.

 “It’s a lot of hard work,” said Saniya, “but challenging problems are fun. And it’s motivating to work on something that could be very important.”

Saniya grew up in India, and arrived at Michigan in 2010 after receiving her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science. She plans to graduate with her Ph.D. within the next year, continue her research here in the United States, and perhaps ultimately become a university professor.

When asked what she most enjoys about her experience at Michigan, Saniya stated, “I have the freedom to pursue my own ideas - ideas that can actually make a difference. I can be part of the future.”

July 2, 2014