Programmable optical circuits are an important tool in developing quantum technologies such as transceivers for quantum communication and integrated photonic chips for quantum information processing. Maintaining precise control over every individual component becomes challenging at large scales, leading to a reduction in the quality of operations performed. In parallel, minor imperfections in circuit fabrication are amplified in this regime, dramatically inhibiting their performance. Here we use inverse design techniques to embed optical circuits in the higher-dimensional space of a large, ambient mode mixer such as a commercial multimode fibre. This approach allows us to forgo control over each individual circuit element, and retain a high degree of programmability. We use our circuits as quantum gates to manipulate high-dimensional spatial-mode entanglement in up to seven dimensions. Their programmability allows us to turn a multimode fibre into a generalized multioutcome measurement device, allowing us to both transport and certify entanglement within the transmission channel. With the support of numerical simulations, we show that our method is a scalable approach to obtaining high circuit fidelity with a low circuit depth by harnessing the resource of a high-dimensional mode mixer.
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