Vacuum-Induced Transparency

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Science  02 Sep 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6047, pp. 1266-1269
DOI: 10.1126/science.1208066

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Photons are excellent information carriers but normally pass through each other without consequence. Engineered interactions between photons would enable applications as varied as quantum information processing and simulation of condensed matter systems. Using an ensemble of cold atoms strongly coupled to an optical cavity, we found that the transmission of light through a medium may be controlled with few photons and even by the electromagnetic vacuum field. The vacuum induces a group delay of 25 nanoseconds on the input optical pulse, corresponding to a light velocity of 1600 meters per second, and a transparency of 40% that increases to 80% when the cavity is filled with 10 photons. This strongly nonlinear effect provides prospects for advanced quantum devices such as photon number–state filters.

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