An all-silicon single-photon source by unconventional photon blockade
The lack of suitable quantum emitters in silicon and silicon-based materials has prevented the realization of room temperature, compact, stable, and integrated sources of single photons in a scalable on-chip architecture, so far. Current approaches rely on exploiting the enhanced optical nonlinearity of silicon through light confinement or slow-light propagation, and are based on parametric processes that typically require substantial input energy and spatial footprint to reach a reasonable output yield. Here we propose an alternative all-silicon device that employs a different paradigm, namely the interplay between quantum interference and the third-order intrinsic nonlinearity in a system of two coupled optical cavities. This unconventional photon blockade allows to produce antibunched radiation at extremely low input powers. We demonstrate a reliable protocol to operate this mechanism under pulsed optical excitation, as required for device applications, thus implementing a true single-photon source. We finally propose a state-of-art implementation in a standard silicon-based photonic crystal integrated circuit that outperforms existing parametric devices either in input power or footprint area.