When a single trapped 198Hg+ ion is illuminated by two lasers, each tuned to an appropriate transition, the resulting resonance fluorescence switches on and off in a series of pulses resembling a bistable telegraph. This intermittent fluorescence can also be obtained by optical pumping with a single laser. Quantum jumps between successive atomic levels may be traced directly with multiple-resonance fluorescence. Atomic transition rates and photon antibunching distributions can be inferred from the pulse statistics and compared with quantum theory. Stochastic tests also indicate that the quantum telegraphs are good random number generators. During periods when the fluorescence is switched off, the radiationless atomic currents that generate the telegraph signals can be adjusted by varying the laser illumination: if this coherent evolution of the wave functions is sustained over sufficiently long time intervals, novel interactive precision measurements, near the limits of the time-energy uncertainty relations, are possible.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)