Light scattering from ultracold atoms in optical lattices as an optical probe of quantum statistics

Igor B. Mekhov, Christoph Maschler, Helmut Ritsch

Research output

48 Citations (Scopus)


We study off-resonant collective light scattering from ultracold atoms trapped in an optical lattice. Scattering from different atomic quantum states creates different quantum states of the scattered light, which can be distinguished by measurements of the spatial intensity distribution, quadrature variances, photon statistics, or spectral measurements. In particular, angle-resolved intensity measurements reflect global statistics of atoms (total number of radiating atoms) as well as local statistical quantities (single-site statistics even without optical access to a single site) and pair correlations between different sites. As a striking example we consider scattering from transversally illuminated atoms into an optical cavity mode. For the Mott-insulator state, similar to classical diffraction, the number of photons scattered into a cavity is zero due to destructive interference, while for the superfluid state it is nonzero and proportional to the number of atoms. Moreover, we demonstrate that light scattering into a standing-wave cavity has a nontrivial angle dependence, including the appearance of narrow features at angles, where classical diffraction predicts zero. The measurement procedure corresponds to the quantum nondemolition measurement of various atomic variables by observing light.

Original languageEnglish
Article number053618
JournalPhysical Review A - Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2007

Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics

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