Quantum versus semiclassical description of light interaction with atomic ensembles: Revision of the Maxwell-Bloch equations and single-photon superradiance Academic Article uri icon


  • 2015 American Physical Society. Interaction of atoms with quantum states of light is a long-standing problem that apart from fundamental physics has potential applications for optical quantum-state storage, quantum communication, and quantum information. A fully quantum mechanical treatment of this problem is usually very complicated mathematically. Here we show, however, that quantum mechanical evolution equations describing single-photon emission (absorption) by atomic ensembles can be written in a form equivalent to the semiclassical Maxwell-Bloch equations. This connection allows us to find exact analytical solutions of the fully quantum mechanical problem. We also found that semiclassical Maxwell-Bloch equations should be written in a form different from those commonly used. Namely, the classical limit of the quantum problem gives a propagation equation with the Laplacian operator on the right-hand side rather than with the second-order time derivative.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 0.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Svidzinsky, A. A., Zhang, X., & Scully, M. O.

citation count

  • 11

complete list of authors

  • Svidzinsky, Anatoly A||Zhang, Xiwen||Scully, Marlan O

publication date

  • July 2015