Quantum mechanical rotation of a photon polarization by Earth’s gravitational field

Hansol Noh, Paul M. Alsing, Doyeol Ahn, Warner A. Miller, Namkyoo Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We describe the quantum mechanical rotation of a photon state, the Wigner rotation—a quantum effect that couples a transformation of a reference frame to a particle’s spin, to investigate geometric phases induced by Earth’s gravitational field for observers in various orbits. We find a potentially measurable quantum phase of the Wigner rotation angle in addition to the rotation of standard fame, the latter of which is computed and agrees well with the geodetic rotation. When an observer is in either a circular or a spiraling orbit containing non-zero angular momentum, the additional quantum phase contributes 10−6 degree to 10−4 degree respectively, depending on the altitude of the Earth orbit. In the former case, the additional quantum phase is dominant over the near-zero classical geodetic rotation. Our results show that the Wigner rotation represents a non-trivial semi-classical effect of quantum field theory on a background classical gravitational field.

Original languageEnglish
Article number163
Journalnpj Quantum Information
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


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