We study the three-dimensional nature of the quantum interface between an ensemble of cold, trapped atomic spins and a paraxial laser beam, coupled through a dispersive interaction. To achieve strong entanglement between the collective atomic spin and the photons, one must match the spatial mode of the collective radiation of the ensemble with the mode of the laser beam while minimizing the effects of decoherence due to optical pumping. For ensembles coupling to a probe field that varies over the extent of the cloud, the set of atoms that indistinguishably radiates into a desired mode of the field defines an inhomogeneous spin wave. Strong coupling of a spin wave to the probe mode is not characterized by a single parameter, the optical density, but by a collection of different effective atom numbers that characterize the coherence and decoherence of the system. To model the dynamics of the system, we develop a full stochastic master equation, including coherent collective scattering into paraxial modes, decoherence by local inhomogeneous diffuse scattering, and backaction due to continuous measurement of the light entangled with the spin waves. This formalism is used to study the squeezing of a spin wave via continuous quantum nondemolition measurement. We find that the greatest squeezing occurs in parameter regimes where spatial inhomogeneities are significant, far from the limit in which the interface is well approximated by a one-dimensional, homogeneous model.
|Number of pages||22|
|Journal||Physical Review A - Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics|
|Publication status||Published - 26 Mar 2014|