Photon retention in coherently excited nitrogen ions.
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Quantum coherence in quantum optics is an essential part of optical information processing and light manipulation. Alkali metal vapors, despite the numerous shortcomings, are traditionally used in quantum optics as a working medium due to convenient near-infrared excitation, strong dipole transitions and long-lived coherence. Here, we proposed and experimentally demonstrated photon retention and subsequent re-emittance with the quantum coherence in a system of coherently excited molecular nitrogen ions (N2+) which are produced using a strong 800nm femtosecond laser pulse. Such photon retention, facilitated by quantum coherence, keeps releasing directly-unmeasurable coherent photons for tens of picoseconds, but is able to be read out by a time-delayed femtosecond pulse centered at 1580nm via two-photon resonant absorption, resulting in a strong radiation at 329.3nm. We reveal a pivotal role of the excited-state population to transmit such extremely weak re-emitted photons in this system. This new finding unveils the nature of the coherent quantum control in N2+ for the potential platform for optical information storage in the remote atmosphere, and facilitates further exploration of fundamental interactions in the quantum optical platform with strong-field ionized molecules..