The One-Atom Maser - A Test System for Simple Quantum Electro-Dynamic Effects

  • Herbert Walther
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (NSSB, volume 135)


The experimental demonstration of the maser has generated a large amount of interest in theoretical models describing the interaction of two-level atoms with a single mode of an electromagnetic field in a cavity.1,2,3 The first models treated purely academic problems, but, modified versions were stimulated which then led to an understanding of a major part of the experimentally observed phenomena, including also the even larger variety of effects observed after the laser was invented. It is a characteristic feature of maser and laser experiments that large numbers of atoms and photons are present. One reason for this is the small size of the matrix elements describing the atom-radiation interaction. Therefore, when only a small amount of photons are involved in an experiment the atom-field evolution time usually becomes much longer than other characteristic times of the system, such as the atomic relaxation, the atom-field interaction time, and the cavity mode damping time. The fundamental theories of radiation-matter interaction involving single electromagnetic modes and small photon occupation numbers therefore could not be tested experimentally so far. They predict, however, some interesting and basic effects; these include:
  1. (1)

    Modification of the spontaneous emission rate of a single atom in a resonant cavity

  2. (2)

    Oscillatory energy exchange between a single atom and the cavity mode

  3. (3)

    Disappearance and quantum revival of optical nutation induced on a single atom by a resonant field.



Spontaneous Emission Electric Field Pulse Atomic Beam Single Atom Blackbody Radiation 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Herbert Walther
    • 1
  1. 1.Sektion PhysikUniversität München and Max-Planck-Institut für QuantumoptikGarchingFed. Rep. of Germany

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