Quantum interferences and the question of thermodynamic equilibrium Academic Article uri icon


  • We derive from first principles the dynamical equations for the interaction between a heat bath and a multilevel atom with some near degenerate states. Such dynamical equations exhibit atomic coherence terms which arise from the interference of transition amplitudes. We address the question whether such equations lead to a steady state that is consistent with the thermodynamic equilibrium. We show that coherence affects the dynamics of the system, but the equilibrium conditions are still characterized by Boltzmann factors. We also show how an asymmetric treatment of spontaneous and stimulated processes could lead to a steady state which is at variance with the principles of thermodynamic equilibrium. We show that such a steady state can be realized by pumping with broadband laser fields. Finally, we show that coherences in the dynamical equations can be probed via the spectrum of fluorescence. 2001 The American Physical Society.

published proceedings

  • Physical Review A

author list (cited authors)

  • Agarwal, G. S., & Menon, S.

citation count

  • 38

complete list of authors

  • Agarwal, GS||Menon, Sunish

publication date

  • February 2001