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Phys Rev Lett. 2002 Oct 28;89(18):183601. Epub 2002 Oct 10.

Atomic-vapor-based high efficiency optical detectors with photon number resolution.

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1
Theoretical Division T-4, University of California, Los Alamos National Laboratory, MS B-283, P.O. Box 1663, Los Alamos, New Mexico 87545, USA. dfvj@t4.lanl.gov

Abstract

The ability to detect very weak optical fields with high efficiency (>99%) and to distinguish the number of photons in a given time interval is a very challenging technical problem with enormous potential payoffs in quantum communications and information processing. We propose to employ an atomic vapor as the active medium, prepared in a specific quantum state using laser radiation. The absorption of a photon will be aided by a dressing laser, and the presence or absence of an excited atom will be detected using the "cycling transition" approach perfected for ion traps. By incorporating an appropriate up-conversion scheme, our method can be applied to a wide variety of optical wavelengths.

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