I'm studying nonlinear optics and in some processes, for example, Spontaneous Parametric Down Conversion or Spontaneous Four Wave Mixing, photon pairs are created and they say that the photons are energy and time entangled. I understood the energy entangled part, which comes easily from energy conservation, but I don't understand why there must be also time entanglement, the only reason I found is experimental, they perform coincidence measure and it can be seen that there is a zero delay between the photons' arrival. Is there a more theoretical explanation for the time entanglement? There was a similar question here, but I find the explanation with Feynman diagrams not satisfactory.

  • $\begingroup$ I would think timing is the reason perfect correlation is so hard to accomplish. Timings not just about simultaneous emission but also equal distance traveled. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2018 at 3:12
  • $\begingroup$ @BillAlsept synchronizing the photons is not difficult. Not sure what you mean by perfect correlation. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2018 at 15:51

1 Answer 1


Energy is conserved in the crystal in SPDC, so (global) energy conservation requires simultaneity of three events: (1) annihilation of the pump photon, (2) creation of SPDC photon #1, and (3) creation of SPDC photon #2. Without a projective measurement of the time at which the SPDC event occurred, emission at times $t_1$ and $t_2$ are indistinguishable, when $\lvert{t_1-t_2}\rvert<t_c,$ the coherence time of the laser. For indistinguishable events, the amplitudes add, so we expect the single-pair term of the full SPDC state at time $t_0$ to be proportional to $\int_{t_0-t_c}^{t_0} dt \lvert t,t\rangle$ (there are other terms as well, corresponding to emission of no pairs as well as emission of more than one pair). Here $\lvert t_s,t_i\rangle$ is the two-photon state corresponding to emission of photons #1 and 2 at times $t_s$ and $t_i.$

This is an entangled state, in Schmidt-decomposed form.

Regarding the experimental evidence you mentioned, note that simply observing simultaneous detections does not prove that the state is time-entangled. At best this shows that the state is classically correlated in time. For example, it does not rule out the possibility that (the single-pair part of) the state is described by a density matrix proportional to $\int dt \lvert t,t\rangle\langle t,t \rvert$, which is not entangled. There are other experiments that demonstrate time entanglement.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer! I understand your argument, but I have a follow up question. I agree that for the global energy conservation the three events you mentioned must happen simultaneously, but due to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, energy conservation can be temporarily not valid, so those three events can happen a slightly different time. For your argument to hold this time difference has to be less that the laser coherence time, is it the case? $\endgroup$
    – user85231
    Mar 31, 2018 at 9:14
  • $\begingroup$ The short answer is no, the laser coherence time is not relevant to that question and can be far longer than the time interval between emission of the two photons. My understanding is that the three events are truly simultaneous when they do occur -- can you give me a reference on this temporary violation of energy conservation? $\endgroup$ Mar 31, 2018 at 19:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.