Shaking photons from the vacuum: acceleration radiation from vibrating atoms

Brian P. Dolan, Aonghus Hunter-McCabe, Jason Twamley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
52 Downloads (Pure)


Acceleration radiation-or Unruh radiation-the thermal radiation observed by an ever accelerating observer or detector, although having similarities to Hawking radiation, so far has proved extremely challenging to observe experimentally. One recent suggestion is that, in the presence of a mirror, constant acceleration of an atom in its ground state can excite the atom while at the same time cause it to emit a photon in an Unruh-type process. In this work we show that merely by shaking the atom, in simple harmonic motion for example, can have the same effect. We calculate the transition rate for this in first order perturbation theory and consider harmonic motion of the atom in the presence of a stationary mirror, or within a cavity or just in empty vacuum. For the latter we propose a circuit-QED potential implementation that yields transition rates of ∼ 10-4 Hz, which may be detectable experimentally.

Original languageEnglish
Article number033026
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalNew Journal of Physics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2020 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd on behalf of the Institute of Physics and Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • acceleration radiation
  • unruh radiation
  • circuit QED


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