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Phys Rev Lett. 2008 Aug 8;101(6):063901. Epub 2008 Aug 8.

Optical bistability at low light level due to collective atomic recoil.

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MIT-Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.


We demonstrate optical nonlinearities due to the interaction of weak optical fields with the collective motion of a strongly dispersive ultracold gas. The combination of a recoil-induced resonance in the high gain regime and optical waveguiding within the dispersive medium enables us to achieve a collective atomic cooperativity of 275+/-50 even in the absence of a cavity. As a result, we observe optical bistability at input powers as low as 20 pW. The present scheme allows for dynamic optical control of the dispersive properties of the ultracold gas using very weak pulses of light. The experimental observations are in good agreement with a theoretical model.

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