In this dissertation, I explore interactions between matter and propagating light. The electromagnetic field is modeled as a Markovian reservoir of quantum harmonic oscillators successively streaming past a quantum system. Each weak and fleeting interaction entangles the light and the system, and the light continues its course. In the context of quantum tomography or metrology one attempts, using measurements of the light, to extract information about the quantum state of the system. An inevitable consequence of these measurements is a disturbance of the systems quantum state. These ideas focus on the system and regard the light as ancillary. It serves its purpose as a probe or as a mechanism to generate interesting dynamics or system states but is eventually traced out, leaving the reduced quantum state of the system as the primary mathematical subject. What, then, when the state of light itself harbors intrinsic self-entanglement? One such set of states, those where a traveling wave packet is prepared with a definite number of photons, is a focal point of this dissertation. These N-photon states are ideal candidates as couriers in quantum information processing device. In contrast to quasi-classical states, such as coherent or thermal fields, N-photon states possess temporal mode entanglement, and local interactions in time have nonlocal consequences. The reduced state of a system probed by an N-photon state evolves in a non-Markovian way, and to describe its dynamics one is obliged to keep track of the field's evolution. I present a method to do this for an arbitrary quantum system using a set of coupled master equations. Many models set aside spatial degrees of freedom as an unnecessary complicating factor. By doing so the precision of predictions is limited. Consider a ensemble of cold, trapped atomic spins dispersively probed by a paraxial laser beam. Atom-light coupling across the ensemble is spatially inhomogeneous as is the radiation pattern of scattered light. To achieve strong entanglement between the atoms and photons, one must match the spatial mode of the collective radiation from the ensemble to the mode of the laser beam while minimizing the effects of decoherence due to optical pumping. In this dissertation, I present a three-dimensional model for a quantum light-matter interface for propagating quantum fields specifically equipped to address these issues. The reduced collective atomic state is described by a stochastic master equation that includes coherent collective scattering into paraxial modes, decoherence by local inhomogeneous diffuse scattering, and measurement backaction due to continuous observation of the light. As the light is measured, backaction transmutes atom-light entanglement into entanglement between the atoms of the ensemble. This formalism is used to study the impact of spatial modes in the squeezing of a collective atomic spin wave via continuous measurement. The largest squeezing occurs precisely in parameter regimes with significant spatial inhomogeneities, far from the limit in which the interface is well approximated by a one-dimensional, homogeneous model.
Level of Degree
Physics & Astronomy
First Committee Member (Chair)
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
quantum, optics, atomic physics, quantum trajectories, open quantum systems
Baragiola, Ben. "Open Systems Dynamics for Propagating Quantum Fields." (2014). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/phyc_etds/7