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Quantum jumps of light recording the birth and death of a photon in a cavity

Abstract : A microscopic system under continuous observation exhibits at random times sudden jumps between its states. The detection of this essential quantum feature requires a quantum non-demolition (QND) measurement repeated many times during the system evolution. Quantum jumps of trapped massive particles (electrons, ions or molecules) have been observed, which is not the case of the jumps of light quanta. Usual photodetectors absorb light and are thus unable to detect the same photon twice. They must be replaced by a transparent counter 'seeing' photons without destroying them3. Moreover, the light has to be stored over a duration much longer than the QND detection time. We have fulfilled these challenging conditions and observed photon number quantum jumps. Microwave photons are stored in a superconducting cavity for times in the second range. They are repeatedly probed by a stream of non-absorbing atoms. An atom interferometer measures the atomic dipole phase shift induced by the non-resonant cavity field, so that the final atom state reveals directly the presence of a single photon in the cavity. Sequences of hundreds of atoms highly correlated in the same state, are interrupted by sudden state-switchings. These telegraphic signals record, for the first time, the birth, life and death of individual photons. Applying a similar QND procedure to mesoscopic fields with tens of photons opens new perspectives for the exploration of the quantum to classical boundary.
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https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-00118324
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Submitted on : Wednesday, March 21, 2007 - 5:22:39 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, May 19, 2022 - 1:52:03 PM
Long-term archiving on: : Friday, September 24, 2010 - 10:53:29 AM

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Sébastien Gleyzes, Stefan Kuhr, Christine Guerlin, Julien Bernu, Samuel Deléglise, et al.. Quantum jumps of light recording the birth and death of a photon in a cavity. Nature, Nature Publishing Group, 2007, 446, pp.297. ⟨10.1038/nature05589⟩. ⟨hal-00118324v4⟩

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