Quantum Theory of an Optical Maser. I. General Theory Academic Article uri icon


  • A quantum statistical analysis of an optical maser is presented in generalization of the recent semiclassical theory of Lamb. Equations of motion for the density matrix of the quantized electromagnetic field are derived. These equations describe the irreversible dynamics of the laser radiation in all regions of operation (above, below, and at threshold). Nonlinearities play an essential role in this problem. The diagonal equations of motion for the radiation are found to have an apparent physical interpretation. At steady state, these equations may be solved via detailed-balance considerations to yield the photon statistical distribution n,n. The resulting distribution has a variance which is significantly larger than that for coherent light. The off-diagonal elements of the radiation density matrix describe the effects of phase diffusion in general and provide the spectral profile | E() |2 as a special case. A detailed discussion of the physics involved in this paper is given in the concluding sections. The theory of the laser adds another example to the short list of solved problems in irreversible quantum statistical mechanics. 1967 The American Physical Society.

published proceedings

  • Physical Review

altmetric score

  • 0.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Scully, M. O., & Lamb, W. E.

citation count

  • 584

complete list of authors

  • Scully, Marlan O||Lamb, Willis E

publication date

  • July 1967