Dynamical Approach to Steady State and Fluctuations in Optically Bistable Systems
Optical bistability is a remarkable manifestation of cooperative atomic behavior. [l–3] A gas of resonant atoms under the action of an incident driving field undergoes a first order phase transition, displaying discontinuity, hysteresis, and divergence. The steady state behavior of the system is reminiscent of the equilibrium properties of a two-phase system: roughly speaking the bistable transition may be interpreted as being due to the separation of the gas into cooperative and uncorrelated phases in equilibrium.
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