The study of non-perturbative interactions between light and matter has garnered significant attention in scientific research. However, the role of quantum properties of light in these interactions has remained largely unexplored. Recently, researchers at Technion–Israel Institute of Technology introduced a new theory in Nature Physics that delves into the physics underlying non-perturbative interactions driven by quantum light. This innovative theory has the potential to guide future experiments in strong-field physics and facilitate the development of new quantum technology.

This groundbreaking paper emerged from a collaborative effort between three research groups at Technion, led by Prof. Ido Kaminer, Prof. Oren Cohen, and Prof. Michael Krueger. Spearheaded by co-first authors Alexey Gorlach and Matan Even Tsur, this study aimed to shed light on high harmonic generation (HHG) and its quantum characteristics. The researchers noticed that HHG experiments were conventionally explained using classical theories, which presented a disconnect with other foundational phenomena in physics, such as spontaneous emission. This discrepancy prompted the team to develop a unified quantum theory framework to elucidate the relationship between these phenomena.

HHG encompasses highly nonlinear processes in which interactions between light and matter lead to the emission of high-harmonics of the driving light pulse. Prof. Kaminer and his research group have been diligently working on formulating a quantum theory-based framework to account for all photonics phenomena, including HHG. Their previous publication in Nature Communications in 2020 introduced an initial version of this unifying framework, which applied quantum optics to analyze HHG. However, the prevailing view at the time suggested that no quantum light source could achieve the required intensity for HHG. This perspective changed with the works of Prof. Maria Chekhova, who demonstrated the creation of intense quantum light in the form of bright squeezed vacuum. Inspired by this breakthrough, Prof. Kaminer and Gorlach embarked on a new investigation to explore the impact of quantum light on HHG.

Within their recent study, Prof. Kaminer, Gorlach, and their colleagues devised a comprehensive framework that describes strong-field physics processes driven by quantum light. To validate this framework theoretically, the researchers applied it to HHG and predicted the changes that would occur if the process was driven by quantum light. Surprisingly, they discovered that significant features such as intensity and spectrum underwent transformations when utilizing a light source with different quantum photon statistics. In addition to these findings, their paper also proposed experimentally feasible scenarios that could only be explained by considering photon statistics. The upcoming experiments to test these predictions hold great significance for the field of strong-field quantum optics.

The new theory developed by Prof. Kaminer, Gorlach, and their colleagues signals a paradigm shift toward incorporating quantum optics into the study of non-perturbative processes driven by quantum light. The theory operates by dividing the driving light into two representations known as the generalized Glauber distribution and the Husimi distribution. By independently simulating the components of these distributions using the time-dependent Schrodinger equation (TDSE), the researchers can subsequently combine the simulations to derive the overall outcome. This integration of standard tools in the quantum-optical calculation scheme represents the strength and practicality of their work, as it can be applied to any quantum light state and emitter system.

While the current research remains theoretical, Prof. Kaminer, Gorlach, and their collaborators anticipate that their theory will pave the way for further exploration in diverse areas of physics. Apart from HHG, this theory can be applied to a wide range of non-perturbative processes driven by non-classical light sources. Experimental validation of their predictions is within reach, particularly with regards to the generation of attosecond pulses through HHG. These attosecond pulses hold great potential for advancing quantum sensing and imaging technologies. As evidence of their expanded applications, the team published a theory paper in Nature Photonics proposing the manipulation of attosecond pulse profiles using the quantum nature of light.

Furthermore, the theory derived by the researchers can also be applied to other phenomena in strong-field physics, such as the Compton effect, which is instrumental in generating X-ray pulses. Prof. Kaminer and Gorlach recently published a follow-up paper in Science Advances that discusses the application of their theory to the Compton effect. They are currently working towards conducting the experiment outlined in their publication. Moreover, their goal is to extend the developed theory beyond HHG and investigate quantum effects in various materials driven by intense light, thereby bridging the gap between quantum optics and condensed matter physics.

The introduction of a new theory by researchers at Technion sheds light on the role of quantum light in non-perturbative interactions. This theory provides a unified framework that can account for various photonics phenomena, including high harmonic generation. By considering the photon statistics of the driving light source, the researchers have demonstrated significant changes in measurable quantities. The potential applications of this theory extend beyond HHG and offer promising prospects for attosecond pulse generation and strong-field physics phenomena. With experimental validation on the horizon, the integration of quantum optics into non-perturbative interactions paves the way for the development of quantum technology and stimulates further studies in this burgeoning field.

Physics

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