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  • Received: Dec. 27, 2019

    Accepted: Feb. 11, 2020

    Posted: Feb. 13, 2020

    Published Online: Apr. 1, 2020

    The Author Email: Xue-Wen Chen (, Zhi-Yuan Li (

    DOI: 10.1364/PRJ.386774

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    Fenghua Qi, Zhiyuan Wang, Weiwang Xu, Xue-Wen Chen, Zhi-Yuan Li. Towards simultaneous observation of path and interference of a single photon in a modified Mach–Zehnder interferometer[J]. Photonics Research, 2020, 8(4): 04000622

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Photonics Research, Vol. 8, Issue 4, 04000622 (2020)

Towards simultaneous observation of path and interference of a single photon in a modified Mach–Zehnder interferometer 

Fenghua Qi1,†, Zhiyuan Wang1,†, Weiwang Xu1, Xue-Wen Chen1,4,*, and Zhi-Yuan Li2,3,*

Author Affiliations

  • 1School of Physics and Wuhan National Laboratory for Optoelectronics, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan 430074, China
  • 2College of Physics and Optoelectronics, South China University of Technology, Guangzhou 510641, China
  • 3e-mail:
  • 4e-mail:


Classical wisdom of wave–particle duality regulates that a quantum object shows either the particle or wave nature but never both. Consequently, it would be impossible to observe simultaneously the complete wave and particle nature of the quantum object. Mathematically the principle requests that the interference visibility V and which-path distinguishability D satisfy an orthodox limit of V2+D21. The present work reports a new wave–particle duality test experiment using single photons in a modified Mach–Zehnder interferometer to demonstrate the possibility of breaking the limit. The key element of the interferometer is a weakly scattering total internal reflection prism surface, which exhibits a pronounced single-photon interference with a visibility of up to 0.97 and simultaneously provides a path distinguishability of 0.83. Apparently, the result of V2+D21.63 exceeds the orthodox limit set by the classical principle of wave–particle duality for single photons. We expect that more delicate experiments in the future should be able to demonstrate the ultimate limit of V2+D22 and shed new light on the foundations of contemporary quantum mechanics.

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