Cavity Quantum Electrodynamics
Atoms and photons in small cavities behave completely unlike those in free space. Their quirks illustrate some of the principles of quantum physics and make possible the development of new sensors
Such an apparatus has many potential uses. Because the passing atoms can monitor the number of photons in a cavity without perturbing it, one can witness the natural death of photons in real time. If a photon disappears in the cavity walls, that disappearance would register immediately in the atomic interference pattern. Such experiments should provide more tests of quantum theory and may open the way to a new generation of sensors in the optical and microwave domains.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
SERGE HAROCHE and JEAN-MICHEL RAIMOND work in a team of about a doz- en researchers and students in the phys- ics department of the École Normale Su- périeure (ENS) in Paris. They have been studying the behavior of atoms in cavi- ties for about 10 years. Haroche received his doctorate from ENS in 1971; he has been a professor of physics at Paris VI University since 1975. He has also been teaching and doing research at Yale Uni- versity since 1984. In 1991 he became a member of the newly created Institut Universitaire de France. Raimond is also an alumnus of ENS; he earned his doc- torate in 1984 working in Haroche’s re- search group and is also a professor of physics at Paris VI University.