COHERENT DYNAMICS IN ATOM-FIELD INTERACTIONS
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This dissertation treats quantum open system dynamics, focusing on the coherent evolution of a two-level atom (as the system) interacting with an electromagnetic field (as the bath), for purposes relevant to quantum computing. In order to maintain the quantum correlations that develop between the system and bath throughout the evolution path integral formalisms such as the influence functional and closed time path formalisms are used. Predictions of effects due to the quantum correlations in the composite interacting system are computed. Conventional treatments using Schr\"odinger-master equation and Heisenberg-Langevin approaches usually ignore system+bath quantum correlations as a technical simplification. It is argued that although neglect of system+bath correlations is generally a good approximation when the bath has a large continuous set of degrees of freedom, a residual coherence effect remains due to the non-zero bath correlation time. Though small, these effects are becoming more relevant as, with the advent of ultra cold atom sources, atom optics experiments are reaching levels at which such residual effects are becoming measurable. Three specific problems are investigated in this thesis: First is a self-dressing rederivation of the Casimir-Polder retardation force. The well known stationary atom result is reproduced and a result for a slowly moving atom is obtained which is up to twice the stationary atom correction. Second is the entangled evolution of a qubit with an initially thermal low temperature bath. The diagonal matrix elements are found to thermalize and the off-diagonal elements to decohere as expected, however they do so non-exponentially due to the quantum correlations that develop between the qubit and bath. Third is a calculation of qubit dynamics in the presence of quantized atomic motion as well as zero point fluctuations of the electromagnetic field. The decoherence rate of the qubit is found to increase slightly in that case due to the additional degree of freedom.