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Science. 2018 Feb 16;359(6377):783-786. doi: 10.1126/science.aao7293.

Observation of three-photon bound states in a quantum nonlinear medium.

Author information

1
Department of Physics and Research Laboratory of Electronics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.
2
Department of Physics, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
3
Department of Physics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.
4
Joint Quantum Institute and Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science, National Institute of Standards and Technology and University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA.
5
Department of Electrical Engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.
6
James Franck Institute, Enrico Fermi Institute, and Department of Physics, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.
7
Department of Physics, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA. lukin@physics.harvard.edu vuletic@mit.edu.
8
Department of Physics and Research Laboratory of Electronics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA. lukin@physics.harvard.edu vuletic@mit.edu.

Abstract

Bound states of massive particles, such as nuclei, atoms, or molecules, constitute the bulk of the visible world around us. By contrast, photons typically only interact weakly. We report the observation of traveling three-photon bound states in a quantum nonlinear medium where the interactions between photons are mediated by atomic Rydberg states. Photon correlation and conditional phase measurements reveal the distinct bunching and phase features associated with three-photon and two-photon bound states. Such photonic trimers and dimers possess shape-preserving wave functions that depend on the constituent photon number. The observed bunching and strongly nonlinear optical phase are described by an effective field theory of Rydberg-induced photon-photon interactions. These observations demonstrate the ability to realize and control strongly interacting quantum many-body states of light.

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