Photon Thermalization in Driven Open Quantum Systems
Taylor, Jacob M
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Light is a paradigmatic quantum field, with individual excitations---photons---that are the most accessible massless particles known. However, their lack of mass and extremely weak interactions mean that typically the thermal description of light is that of blackbody radiation. As the temperature of the light decreases, the overall number of photons approaches zero. Therefore, efforts for quantum optics and optical physics have mostly focused on driving systems far from equilibrium to populate sufficient numbers of photons. While lasers provide a severe example of a nonequilibrium problem, recent interests in the near-equilibrium physics of so-called photon gases, such as in Bose condensation of light or in attempts to make photonic quantum simulators, suggest one re-examine near-equilibrium cases. In this thesis, we consider peculiar driven open quantum system scenarios where near-equilibrium dynamics can lead to equilibration of photons with a finite number, following a thermal description closer to that of an ideal gas than to blackbody radiation. Specifically, we show how laser cooling of a well-isolated mechanical mode or atomic motion can provide an effective bath which enables control of both the chemical potential and temperature of the resulting grand canonical ensemble of photon. We then theoretically demonstrate that Bose condensation of photons can be realized by cooling an ensemble of two-level atoms inside a cavity. Finally, we find that the engineered chemical potential for light not only admits future applications in many-body quantum simulations, facilitates preparation of near-equilibrium photonic states, but also enables an analogous voltage bias for photonic circuit elements.