Enhancing light-atom interactions via atomic bunching
There is a broad interest in enhancing the strength of light-atom interactions to the point where injecting a single photon induces a nonlinear material response. Here we show theoretically that sub-Doppler-cooled two-level atoms that are spatially organized by weak optical fields give rise to a nonlinear material response that is greatly enhanced beyond that attainable in a homogeneous gas. Specifically, in the regime where the intensity of the applied optical fields is much less than the off-resonance saturation intensity, we show that the third-order nonlinear susceptibility scales inversely with atomic temperature and, due to this scaling, can be two orders of magnitude larger than that of a homogeneous gas for typical experimental parameters. As a result, we predict that spatially bunched two-level atoms can exhibit single-photon nonlinearities. Our model is valid for all regimes of atomic bunching and simultaneously accounts for the backaction of the atoms on the optical fields. Our results agree with previous theoretical and experimental results for light-atom interactions that have considered only limited regimes of atomic bunching. For lattice beams tuned to the low-frequency side of the atomic transition, we find that the nonlinearity transitions from a self-focusing type to a self-defocusing type at a critical intensity. We also show that higher than third-order nonlinear optical susceptibilities are significant in the regime where the dipole potential energy is on the order of the atomic thermal energy. We therefore find that it is crucial to retain high-order nonlinearities to accurately predict interactions of laser fields with spatially organized ultracold atoms. The model presented here is a foundation for modeling low-light-level nonlinear optical processes for ultracold atoms in optical lattices. © 2014 American Physical Society.
Schmittberger, BL; Gauthier, DJ
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