Counting Atoms

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Science  15 Oct 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5695, pp. 377
DOI: 10.1126/science.306.5695.377a

Success in the emerging field of quantum information science will be dependent on the ability to impart and carry information reliably in single quantum units such as atoms, ions, or photons. Cavity quantum electrodynamics is one proposal in which a single atom trapped in a cavity interacts with a single photon also trapped within the cavity. However, loading the cavity with atoms is somewhat statistical in terms of the number of atoms loaded in one cycle. McKeever et al. have developed a diagnostic technique allowing them to monitor the number of atoms present within the cavity. The atoms fluoresce in response to a near-resonant probe beam, and as the atoms leave the cavity one by one, a corresponding stepwise change in the transmission can be observed. Knowing exactly how many atoms are within the cavity at any given time should provide the basis for precise atom-atom and atom-photon interactions crucial for the implementation of quantum information protocols.— ISO

Phys. Rev. Lett. 93, 143601 (2004).

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