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Coherent single-atom superradiance

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Science  09 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6376, pp. 662-666
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar2179

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Building up to superradiance, one by one

Superradiance is a quantum phenomenon that occurs when emitters are sufficiently close to change spontaneous emission. Controlling the position and state of emitters within an atomic ensemble, however, is technically challenging. Kim et al. show that spatial correlations can be replaced by temporal correlations to achieve superradiance (see the Perspective by Meschede). They dropped prepared atoms into a high-quality optical cavity and found that the number of photons within the cavity built up superradiantly as the atoms dropped through one by one. The method provides a versatile platform for generating nonclassical states of light.

Science, this issue p. 662; see also p. 641

Abstract

Superradiance is a quantum phenomenon emerging in macroscopic systems whereby correlated single atoms cooperatively emit photons. Demonstration of controlled collective atom-field interactions has resulted from the ability to directly imprint correlations with an atomic ensemble. Here we report cavity-mediated coherent single-atom superradiance: Single atoms with predefined correlation traverse a high–quality factor cavity one by one, emitting photons cooperatively with the N atoms that have already gone through the cavity (N represents the number of atoms). Enhanced collective photoemission of N-squared dependence was observed even when the intracavity atom number was less than unity. The correlation among single atoms was achieved by nanometer-precision position control and phase-aligned state manipulation of atoms by using a nanohole-array aperture. Our results demonstrate a platform for phase-controlled atom-field interactions.

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