Cavity-modified spontaneous emission: From Rabi oscillations to exponential decay

H. Gie\Sen, J. D. Berger, G. Mohs, P. Meystre, S. F. Yelin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


We revisit the problem of spontaneous emission by a two-level system in a cavity, concentrating in particular on those aspects associated with the finite propagation time of light between the atom and the cavity boundaries. We find that spontaneous emission always occurs first at the free space rate and there is then an abrupt change in these dynamics when light reflected by the cavity mirrors returns to the atom, leading to interference effects that result either in an enhancement or a reduction of this rate or in a periodic exchange of excitation between the atom and the cavity field. From this point of view, reversible spontaneous emission in terms of single-mode “vacuum Rabi oscillations” can be interpreted as resulting from the interference between the multimode partial waves reflected at the cavity mirrors and the instantaneously radiated light.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2816-2821
Number of pages6
JournalPhysical Review A - Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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