Cavity Quantum Electrodynamics At Optical Frequencies

Quantum electrodynamics (QED) tells us that the electromagnetic field is, on a mode-by-mode basis, quantized according to the harmonic oscillator model. Each mode is ascribed a lowest energy (or dark) state possessing one half quanta of non-removable energy plus an infinite ladder of equally spaced excited states accessed through the addition or removal of energy quanta from the mode. In the optical regime and under normal thermal conditions, electromagnetic field modes are typically in their dark state. Nevertheless, a residual dark-state atom-field coupling remains, and it is this coupling that mediates shifts and spontaneous radiative decay of atomic states. The experimental reality of dark-state atom-field coupling is frequently interpreted as proof of the quantum description of light.

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