Quantum optics is a branch of atomic, molecular, and optical physics dealing with how individual quanta of light, known as photons, interact with atoms and molecules. It includes the study of the particle-like properties of photons. Photons have been used to test many of the counter-intuitive predictions of quantum mechanics, such as entanglement and teleportation, and are a useful resource for quantum information processing.
Light propagating in a restricted volume of space has its energy and momentum quantized according to an integer number of particles known as photons. Quantum optics studies the nature and effects of light as quantized photons. The first major development leading to that understanding was the correct modeling of the blackbody radiation spectrum by Max Planck in 1899 under the hypothesis of light being emitted in discrete units of energy. The photoelectric effect was further evidence of this quantization as explained by Albert Einstein in a 1905 paper, a discovery for which he was to be awarded the Nobel Prize in 1921. Niels Bohr showed that the hypothesis of optical radiation being quantized corresponded to his theory of the quantized energy levels of atoms, and the spectrum of discharge emission from hydrogen in particular. The understanding of the interaction between light and matter following these developments was crucial for the development of quantum mechanics as a whole. However, the subfields of quantum mechanics dealing with matter-light interaction were principally regarded as research into matter rather than into light; hence one rather spoke of atom physics and quantum electronics in 1960. Laser science—i.e., research into principles, design and application of these devices—became an important field, and the quantum mechanics underlying the laser's principles was studied now with more emphasis on the properties of light[ dubious ], and the name quantum optics became customary.
As laser science needed good theoretical foundations, and also because research into these soon proved very fruitful, interest in quantum optics rose. Following the work of Dirac in quantum field theory, John R. Klauder, George Sudarshan, Roy J. Glauber, and Leonard Mandel applied quantum theory to the electromagnetic field in the 1950s and 1960s to gain a more detailed understanding of photodetection and the statistics of light (see degree of coherence). This led to the introduction of the coherent state as a concept which addressed variations between laser light, thermal light, exotic squeezed states, etc. as it became understood that light cannot be fully described just referring to the electromagnetic fields describing the waves in the classical picture. In 1977, Kimble et al. demonstrated a single atom emitting one photon at a time, further compelling evidence that light consists of photons. Previously unknown quantum states of light with characteristics unlike classical states, such as squeezed light were subsequently discovered.
Development of short and ultrashort laser pulses—created by Q switching and modelocking techniques—opened the way to the study of what became known as ultrafast processes. Applications for solid state research (e.g. Raman spectroscopy) were found, and mechanical forces of light on matter were studied. The latter led to levitating and positioning clouds of atoms or even small biological samples in an optical trap or optical tweezers by laser beam. This, along with Doppler cooling and Sisyphus cooling, was the crucial technology needed to achieve the celebrated Bose–Einstein condensation.
Other remarkable results are the demonstration of quantum entanglement, quantum teleportation, and quantum logic gates. The latter are of much interest in quantum information theory, a subject which partly emerged from quantum optics, partly from theoretical computer science.
Today's fields of interest among quantum optics researchers include parametric down-conversion, parametric oscillation, even shorter (attosecond) light pulses, use of quantum optics for quantum information, manipulation of single atoms, Bose–Einstein condensates, their application, and how to manipulate them (a sub-field often called atom optics), coherent perfect absorbers, and much more. Topics classified under the term of quantum optics, especially as applied to engineering and technological innovation, often go under the modern term photonics.
Several Nobel prizes have been awarded for work in quantum optics. These were awarded:
According to quantum theory, light may be considered not only to be as an electro-magnetic wave but also as a "stream" of particles called photons which travel with c, the vacuum speed of light. These particles should not be considered to be classical billiard balls, but as quantum mechanical particles described by a wavefunction spread over a finite region.
Each particle carries one quantum of energy, equal to hf, where h is Planck's constant and f is the frequency of the light. That energy possessed by a single photon corresponds exactly to the transition between discrete energy levels in an atom (or other system) that emitted the photon; material absorption of a photon is the reverse process. Einstein's explanation of spontaneous emission also predicted the existence of stimulated emission, the principle upon which the laser rests. However, the actual invention of the maser (and laser) many years later was dependent on a method to produce a population inversion.
The use of statistical mechanics is fundamental to the concepts of quantum optics: light is described in terms of field operators for creation and annihilation of photons—i.e. in the language of quantum electrodynamics.
A frequently encountered state of the light field is the coherent state, as introduced by E.C. George Sudarshan in 1960. This state, which can be used to approximately describe the output of a single-frequency laser well above the laser threshold, exhibits Poissonian photon number statistics. Via certain nonlinear interactions, a coherent state can be transformed into a squeezed coherent state, by applying a squeezing operator which can exhibit super- or sub-Poissonian photon statistics. Such light is called squeezed light. Other important quantum aspects are related to correlations of photon statistics between different beams. For example, spontaneous parametric down-conversion can generate so-called 'twin beams', where (ideally) each photon of one beam is associated with a photon in the other beam.
Atoms are considered as quantum mechanical oscillators with a discrete energy spectrum, with the transitions between the energy eigenstates being driven by the absorption or emission of light according to Einstein's theory.
For solid state matter, one uses the energy band models of solid state physics. This is important for understanding how light is detected by solid-state devices, commonly used in experiments.
Quantum electronics is a term that was used mainly between the 1950s and 1970s to denote the area of physics dealing with the effects of quantum mechanics on the behavior of electrons in matter, together with their interactions with photons. Today, it is rarely considered a sub-field in its own right, and it has been absorbed by other fields. Solid state physics regularly takes quantum mechanics into account, and is usually concerned with electrons. Specific applications of quantum mechanics in electronics is researched within semiconductor physics. The term also encompassed the basic processes of laser operation, which is today studied as a topic in quantum optics. Usage of the term overlapped early work on the quantum Hall effect and quantum cellular automata.
A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of electromagnetic radiation. The word "laser" is an acronym for "light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation". The first laser was built in 1960 by Theodore H. Maiman at Hughes Research Laboratories, based on theoretical work by Charles Hard Townes and Arthur Leonard Schawlow.
The photon is a type of elementary particle. It is the quantum of the electromagnetic field including electromagnetic radiation such as light and radio waves, and the force carrier for the electromagnetic force. Photons are massless, so they always move at the speed of light in vacuum, 299792458 m/s. The photon belongs to the class of bosons.
The photoelectric effect is the emission of electrons when electromagnetic radiation, such as light, hits a material. Electrons emitted in this manner are called photoelectrons. The phenomenon is studied in condensed matter physics, and solid state and quantum chemistry to draw inferences about the properties of atoms, molecules and solids. The effect has found use in electronic devices specialized for light detection and precisely timed electron emission.
Quantum mechanics is a fundamental theory in physics that provides a description of the physical properties of nature at the scale of atoms and subatomic particles. It is the foundation of all quantum physics including quantum chemistry, quantum field theory, quantum technology, and quantum information science.
Wave–particle duality is the concept in quantum mechanics that every particle or quantum entity may be described as either a particle or a wave. It expresses the inability of the classical concepts "particle" or "wave" to fully describe the behaviour of quantum-scale objects. As Albert Einstein wrote:
It seems as though we must use sometimes the one theory and sometimes the other, while at times we may use either. We are faced with a new kind of difficulty. We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do.
Radiation pressure is the mechanical pressure exerted upon any surface due to the exchange of momentum between the object and the electromagnetic field. This includes the momentum of light or electromagnetic radiation of any wavelength which is absorbed, reflected, or otherwise emitted by matter on any scale. The associated force is called the radiation pressure force, or sometimes just the force of light.
Atomic, molecular, and optical physics (AMO) is the study of matter-matter and light-matter interactions; at the scale of one or a few atoms and energy scales around several electron volts. The three areas are closely interrelated. AMO theory includes classical, semi-classical and quantum treatments. Typically, the theory and applications of emission, absorption, scattering of electromagnetic radiation (light) from excited atoms and molecules, analysis of spectroscopy, generation of lasers and masers, and the optical properties of matter in general, fall into these categories.
Laser cooling includes a number of techniques in which atomic and molecular samples are cooled down to near absolute zero. Laser cooling techniques rely on the fact that when an object absorbs and re-emits a photon its momentum changes. For an ensemble of particles, their thermodynamic temperature is proportional to the variance in their velocity. That is, more homogeneous velocities among particles corresponds to a lower temperature. Laser cooling techniques combine atomic spectroscopy with the aforementioned mechanical effect of light to compress the velocity distribution of an ensemble of particles, thereby cooling the particles.
Quantum mechanics is the study of very small things. It explains the behavior of matter and its interactions with energy on the scale of atomic and subatomic particles. By contrast, classical physics explains matter and energy only on a scale familiar to human experience, including the behavior of astronomical bodies such as the Moon. Classical physics is still used in much of modern science and technology. However, towards the end of the 19th century, scientists discovered phenomena in both the large (macro) and the small (micro) worlds that classical physics could not explain. The desire to resolve inconsistencies between observed phenomena and classical theory led to two major revolutions in physics that created a shift in the original scientific paradigm: the theory of relativity and the development of quantum mechanics. This article describes how physicists discovered the limitations of classical physics and developed the main concepts of the quantum theory that replaced it in the early decades of the 20th century. It describes these concepts in roughly the order in which they were first discovered. For a more complete history of the subject, see History of quantum mechanics.
Roy Jay Glauber was an American theoretical physicist. He was the Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics at Harvard University and Adjunct Professor of Optical Sciences at the University of Arizona. Born in New York City, he was awarded one half of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his contribution to the quantum theory of optical coherence", with the other half shared by John L. Hall and Theodor W. Hänsch. In this work, published in 1963, he created a model for photodetection and explained the fundamental characteristics of different types of light, such as laser light and light from light bulbs. His theories are widely used in the field of quantum optics. In statistical physics he pioneered the study of the dynamics of first-order phase transitions, since he first defined and investigated the stochastic dynamics of an Ising model in a largely influential paper published in 1963. He served on the National Advisory Board of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, the research arms of Council for a Livable World.
Ultracold atoms are atoms that are maintained at temperatures close to 0 kelvin, typically below several tens of microkelvin (µK). At these temperatures the atom's quantum-mechanical properties become important.
Daniel Frank Walls FRS was a New Zealand theoretical physicist specialising in quantum optics.
The history of quantum mechanics is a fundamental part of the history of modern physics. Quantum mechanics' history, as it interlaces with the history of quantum chemistry, began essentially with a number of different scientific discoveries: the 1838 discovery of cathode rays by Michael Faraday; the 1859–60 winter statement of the black-body radiation problem by Gustav Kirchhoff; the 1877 suggestion by Ludwig Boltzmann that the energy states of a physical system could be discrete; the discovery of the photoelectric effect by Heinrich Hertz in 1887; and the 1900 quantum hypothesis by Max Planck that any energy-radiating atomic system can theoretically be divided into a number of discrete "energy elements" ε such that each of these energy elements is proportional to the frequency ν with which each of them individually radiate energy, as defined by the following formula:
The Max-Planck-Institute for Quantum Optics is a part of the Max Planck Society which operates 87 research facilities in Germany.
Mark George Raizen is an American physicist who conducts experiments on quantum optics and atom optics.
In quantum mechanics, a boson is a particle that follows Bose–Einstein statistics. Bosons make up one of two classes of elementary particles, the other being fermions. The name boson was coined by Paul Dirac to commemorate the contribution of Satyendra Nath Bose, an Indian physicist and professor of physics at University of Calcutta and at University of Dhaka in developing, with Albert Einstein, Bose–Einstein statistics, which theorizes the characteristics of elementary particles.
In physics, a quantum is the minimum amount of any physical entity involved in an interaction. The fundamental notion that a physical property can be "quantized" is referred to as "the hypothesis of quantization". This means that the magnitude of the physical property can take on only discrete values consisting of integer multiples of one quantum.
Physics is a scientific discipline that seeks to construct and experimentally test theories of the physical universe. These theories vary in their scope and can be organized into several distinct branches, which are outlined in this article.
The timeline of quantum mechanics is a list of key events in the history of quantum mechanics, quantum field theories and quantum chemistry.
A parametric process is an optical process in which light interacts with matter in such a way as to leave the quantum state of the material unchanged. As a direct consequence of this there can be no net transfer of energy, momentum, or angular momentum between the optical field and the physical system. In contrast a non-parametric process is a process in which any part of the quantum state of the system changes.