Quantum-noise limit on optical amplification by two-beam coupling in an atomic vapor.
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We investigate theoretically the noise properties of the amplification of a weak probe beam in an atomic vapor pumped by an intense nearly resonant pump field. For the case of gain via the three-photon effect, we find that only in the limit in which collisional broadening is absent can the system operate as an ideal quantum-noise limited optical amplifier for the probe wave. For the case of gain via stimulated Rayleight scattering, we find that the minimum noise figure is four times that of an ideal optical amplifier, and that it occurs when the atomic system is predominantly collisionally broadened. 1992 The American Physical Society.