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The University of Southampton

PHYS6012 Coherent Light, Coherent Matter

Module Overview

While coherence phenomena have long been familiar in the context of light waves, their manifestation in the context of matter waves is an exciting development of much more recent origins. While this is true this course aims to introduce the basic concepts needed to understand coherent phenomena, and more important the relevant experiments to probe such properties. We will study classical as well as non-classical correlations which can be properties of light and matter. Naturally, we will start to study the concepts with classical light and photons after brief revisiting classical electrodynamics, quantum mechancis as well as atomic physics. We will discuss photon statistics and noise, meet correlation functions, discuss important experiments such as a famous Hanbury-Brown and Twiss intensity interferometer. We will then discuss non-classical states sch as coherent and sqyeezed states as well as number or Fock states. We will then discuss atom-light interaction as in cavity-QED and as relevant for the generation of cold atoms. Finally, some applications of coherent light and coherent matter may include the discussion of examples such as Bose-Einstein condensation, quantum entanglement as well as selected topics from decoherence theory and quantum computing. The approach in this lecture is more phenomonological than strict mathematical, while we will introduce the typical mathematical tools to evaluate coherence. We hope that this will provide students with an ideal basis to understand coherent phenomena in all kinds of physical systems.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Understand the basic ideas of coherence, and the basis of similarities and differences in its manifestation for light and for matter
  • Understand some mechanisms of cohernet interaction of light with atoms as in cavity QED: weak coupling vs strong coupling
  • Be familiar with experimental techniques that enable control and exploitation of coherence
  • Be familiar with typical concepts in quantum optics such as photon statistics, non-classical states of light, but also matter


- Revisit quantum mechancis, classical electrodynamics and light-atom interaction - Coherence of light, and its measurement via interference - Elements of quantum optics: squeezed and anti-squeezed states Interference of the polarized light waves: classical and quantum images - Photon statistics: statistical properties of light, - Poisson statistics - Photon anti-bunching Squeezed light - Photon number states - Light-matter interaction in cavity-QED cold atoms and Bose - Einstein condensation - Resonant light-atom interaction - Decoherence - Quantum entanglement

Learning and Teaching

Follow-up work12
Completion of assessment task18
Preparation for scheduled sessions12
Wider reading or practice74
Total study time156

Resources & Reading list

M. Fox (2005). Quantum Optics, An Introduction. 

Loudon (2000). The quantum theory of light. 

A. Kavokin, G. Malpuech (2003). Cavity polaritons. 

Walls & Milburn (2007). Quantum Optics. 

Yamamoto & Imamoglu (1999). Mesoscopic quantum optics. 

Bachor & Ralph (2003). A guide to Experiments in quantum optics. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Continuous Assessment 10%
Final Assessment  90%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisites: PHYS3002 AND PHYS3004 AND PHYS3007 AND PHYS3008

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