Physics & Astronomy ETDs


Collin Trail

Publication Date



In this thesis I explore the use of collective spin angular momentum as a platform for quantum information processing. Such systems have several nice features that make them excellent choices for such protocols, especially ones where information is also stored in photonic variables. The longer coherence times of atoms makes it possible to store information from light in atoms for future use, and it is generally easier to couple atomic variables than to create nonlinear interactions of light. Above and beyond the advantages of atomic systems, collective atomic systems have additional strengths. In the limit of a large number of atoms, the collective variables of atomic systems have a natural connection to the bosonic algebra of light (known as the Holstein-Primakoff or HP approximation) where components of the collective spin angular momentum effectively act as quadratures, making them natural systems for coupling to light. Also, collectively addressing the atoms allows one to access a large state space without individual addressing of the atoms. A natural first step towards control of these collective variables is generating large amounts of atomic spin squeezing. In the HP approximation going from rotations to squeezing corresponds to going from linear to quadratic interactions in the atomic quadratures; for extremely large squeezing one should see the breakdown of the HP approximation and the ability to generate arbitrary collective atomic states. I have sought to improve previous schemes for the spin squeezing of atomic ensembles, such as the proposal of Takeuchi et. al. based on coherent quantum feedback. In this scheme a beam of linearly polarized light passes through the atomic ensemble (prepared in a coherent state), coupling to the atoms through a state-dependent index of refraction (the Faraday effect). The light is then passed through a wave-plate and reflected back through the atoms for a second pass. This double-pass scheme leads to an effective nonlinearity as the atomic fluctuations are mapped onto the light on the first pass and then back on to the atoms in the second pass. The light acts as a bus coupling each atom to each of the others. This nonlinear interaction forms a shearing of the atomic coherent state that results in squeezing. The light is entangled to the atoms through these interactions, and remains entangled as it escapes the system. This leads to decoherence of the atoms as the light is lost to the environment, reducing the amount of spin squeezing achieved. The first step towards improving the double-pass scheme was to add a quantum eraser step in which the light is disentangled from the squeezed atoms. By first measuring one quadrature of the light, and then performing a measurement-dependent rotation on the atomic ensemble, it is possible to decouple the atoms and light so that the loss of the light does not reduce the atomic squeezing. This results in an improvement of the rate of atomic spin squeezing. The nonlinear shearing interaction that remains still falls short of the exponential squeezing seen in optical parametric amplification. The reason for this can be seen by decomposing the shearing interaction into squeezing along a given quadrature followed by a rotation. The rotation leads to a constantly changing axis along which the squeezing occurs, and thus the squeezing builds up more slowly. This can be corrected for by breaking up the light pulse into a sequence of small pulses, and performing a small phase matching rotation after each pulse. The squeezing then adds up along a constant direction, rather than along a constantly varying direction. This results in still further improvement of the rate of atomic spin squeezing. A complete model includes the effects of photon-atom scattering and other noise and loss effects on the overall rate of squeezing. Previous derivations of noise due to photon-atom scattering have started with the unjustified assumptions that the atomic and photonic decoherence channels were both Gaussian and independent of correlations between the two subsystems. They then proceed with very general statistical arguments that rely upon these simplifications. My work begins with the more fundamental master equation picture in which I find the Linblad jump operators. I find that in general the photonic and atomic loss channels are not independent, with the intensity of the light dictating the details of this dependence, and find the conditions under which the Gaussian approximation holds. Squeezing and loss is initially treated assuming ensembles of spin-1/2 atoms, but this work is further extended to higher dimensional subsystems. For a higher spin case, preparing the atoms in spin coherent states is not optimal. One can engineer a stronger interaction by preparing the atoms in an atomic "cat state", i.e., a superposition of the two stretch states along the direction of propagation of the light beam. The fluctuations of such a state are more strongly coupled to the light, resulting in a stronger nonlinearity. This leads to strong correlations between the atoms, but they are not immediately useful for squeezing; the cat state must be coherently mapped to a coherent state to achieve atomic spin squeezing. The state created in this manner is ultimately more squeezed than that achieved with the same interaction but prepared initially in a coherent state.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Physics & Astronomy

First Committee Member (Chair)

Jessen, Poul

Second Committee Member

Prasad, Sudhakar

Third Committee Member

Caves, Carlton

Project Sponsors

National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research




Angular momentum (Nuclear physics)--Coupling and recoupling, Quantum entanglement, Squeezed light, Quantum computers.

Document Type