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Tesi etd-09232014-174458

Thesis type
Tesi di laurea magistrale
Nonlinear light propagation through a strongly interacting Rydberg gas
Corso di studi
relatore Prof. Arimondo, Ennio
relatore Prof. Weidemüller, Matthias
Parole chiave
  • Nonlinear optics
  • Electromagnetically-induced transparency
  • Rydberg atoms
Data inizio appello
Riassunto analitico
Interfacing light with matter is one of the fundamental tasks in physics. To
understand and control atom-light interactions at the level of individual quanta is at
the heart of modern quantum optics (see, for instance, Nobel prize in physics 2012).
Of great interest in current experiments is the regime of strong coupling between
light and matter, in which the coherent and reversible light-matter coupling dominates
over dissipative processes. This almost ideal light-matter interface can be practically
realized using electromagnetically-induced transparency (EIT) [1]. The key element
of EIT is the creation of a dark state [2] as a consequence of a quantum interference
eff ect arising in a three-level system coherently coupled by a weak probe field and a
strong coupling field, with two stable or metastable states and one rapidly decaying
level. The destructive interference of the two different excitation pathways driven
by the laser fields leads to cancellation of absorption on resonance and renders the
medium transparent for the probe light.
Even more interesting is to investigate what happens when light is coupled to
a strongly interacting atomic many-body system. Rydberg atoms are the optimal
candidates for studying the e ffects of strong dipole-dipole interactions on light propagation.
Rydberg atoms are atoms excited in high-lying energy states (principal
quantum number n > 20), with a relatively long lifetime (100 mus) and a large orbital
radius (1 mum) [3]. The large radius of Rydberg atoms is responsible for their
enormous dipole moments, resulting in an exaggerated response to electric fi elds and
in very strong long-range dipole-dipole interactions between atoms excited in Rydberg
When atoms are excited to Rydberg states with coherent light fi elds, the interactions
give rise to strong atomic correlations and lead to many-body phenomena,
of which the most outstanding is the dipole blockade [4], for which the presence of a
previously excited Rydberg atom prevents the excitation of another atom to a Rydberg
state within a certain blockade volume. This enables deterministic creation of
a single excitation for atoms confi ned within the blockade volume, making Rydberg
atoms ideally suited for applications in quantum information processing, such as the
implementation of quantum gates. Moreover, since each blockade volume collectively
shares a single excitation, also the interaction with the light fi eld is modi ed and
all the atoms within this volume act as an e ffective two-level atom with enhanced
coupling to the light fi eld.
Lately, several experiments combining the extraordinary properties of Rydberg atoms with the strong atom-light coupling achievable under EIT conditions have
been performed, revealing the striking eff ect of dipole blockade on EIT. A single Rydberg
excitation can switch the optical response of the surrounding atoms within a
blockade volume from the transparent EIT condition to the resonant scattering limit,
thus restoring the absorption of the probe light on resonance. This controlled switching
between diff erent optical responses due to Rydberg-Rydberg interactions leads to
a huge nonlinear optical response of the atomic system to the probe light fi eld, which
depends on the atomic density, as well as on the probe intensity.
EIT in Rydberg gases has been extensively studied, both theoretically and experimentally,
in recent years. One motivation is the possibility of exploiting the
nonlinear optical response of the gas to achieve eff ective photon-photon interactions
in the atomic medium. However, already the simulation of classical light propagating
through a strongly interacting gas is a theoretical challenge due to the high
complexity of the underlying many-body physics. Various approaches using di fferent
approximations have been pursued to tackle light propagation through Rydberg-EIT
In this thesis a theoretical as well as an experimental study of the nonlinear optical
response of a strongly interacting Rydberg gas under EIT con figuration is presented.
The theoretical investigation of the many-body state of the system is performed applying
a simplifi ed model based on a rate equation (RE) approach, where interactions
among Rydberg atoms are only included as energy shifts of the Rydberg states. The
combination of the RE model with a semianalytical model recently developed to
treat the collective eff ects emerging at high atomic densities (> 10^12 cm^(-3)), allows to
demonstrate that the nonlinear optical susceptibility of an interacting Rydberg-EIT
medium can be calculated very efficiently in terms of single atom properties alone.
Numerical simulations are performed assuming realistic values for the parameters of
the system such as atomic density, laser intensities, interaction strengths. The results
are then compared to experimental data. The experimental study is carried out on
an ultracold cloud of 87Rb atoms con fined in an optical dipole trap. The setup used
to prepare the cold atomic sample and to excite the atoms to Rydberg states under
EIT con figuration is outlined in the thesis. Measurements of probe light absorption
are obtained by analysing absorption images of the atomic cloud taken at di fferent
atomic densities. The comparison of the theoretical model with the data reveals that
the model well reproduces the experimental results in a wide range of densities and
for di fferent sets of parameters. Moreover, compared with previous similar works, the
model developed in this thesis allows to achieve a better quantitative understanding
of the nonlinear optical response of the Rydberg-EIT medium to a resonant probe
Another feature of EIT in interacting Rydberg gas which is covered in this thesis
concerns the possibility of exploiting the strong interactions between atoms in
di fferent Rydberg states combined with the optical nonlinearity of the atomic gas to develop a powerful non-destructive and spatially resolved imaging technique, potentially
able to detect a single Rydberg "impurity" embedded in a background of
"probe" atoms subject to EIT conditions. Such an imaging technique has been recently
experimentally realized within the research group where I performed my thesis
work, following a prevoius theoretical proposal [5]. The model described in this thesis
is extended to treat the e ffects of one impurity at the center of the atomic cloud on
the absorption of the probe light. Performing simulations of the imaging process,
including experimentally relevant noise sources, it is shown that it should be possible
to achieve the single particle sensitivity. It is furthermore demonstrated that interactions
between background atoms heavily decrease the sensitivity of the imaging
scheme, consequently, minimizing these interactions is crucial to achieve the desired
high sensitivity.
The experimental implementation of the imaging technique is presented, together
with measurements of nonlinear absorption in presence of diff erent number of impurities,
at di fferent atomic densities. The experimental results show that a minimum
number of around 30 impurities excited at the center of the atomic cloud is necessary
to clearly distinguish the absorption of the probe light due to the impurities, from
that due to interactions among background atoms. This demonstrates that with the
current experimental setup it is not possible to detect a single impurity. As a consequence,
the theoretical model for the absorption in presence of only one impurity at
the center of the cloud can not be tested. The motivations which prevent achieving
the single atom sensitivity with the present imaging technique are discussed, together
with possible improvements of the experimetal setup.
[1] M. Fleischhauer, A. Imamoglu, and J. P. Marangos, Electromagnetically induced
transparency: Optics in coherent media, Rev. Mod. Phys. 77, 633 (2005).
[2] E. Arimondo, G. Orriolis, Nonabsorbing atomic coherences by coherent
two-photon transitions in a three-level optical pumping, Nuovo Cimento Lett., 17,
133 (1976).
[3] T. Gallagher, Rydberg Atoms, Cambridge Monographs on Atomic, Molecular and
Chemical Physics, Cambridge University Press (2005).
[4] M. D. Lukin, M. Fleischhauer, R. Cote, L. M. Duan, D. Jaksch, J. I. Cirac, P.
Zoller, Dipole Blockade and Quantum Information Processing in Mesoscopic Atomic
Ensembles, Phys. Rev. Lett. 87, 037901 (2001).
[5] G. Gunter, M. Robert-de-Saint-Vincent, H. Schempp, C. S. Hofmann, S.
Whitlock, and M. Weidemuller, Interaction-Enhanced Imaging of Individual Rydberg
Atoms in Dense Gases, Phys. Rev. Lett. 108, 013002 (2012).