Ann. Phys. Fr.
Volume 10, Number 6, 1985
|797 - 809
|01 June 2004
Atomes dans un faisceau lumineux ou dans le vide de photons
Ecole Normale Supérieure et Collège de France, 24, rue Lhomond, 75231 Paris Cedex 05, France
An atomic electron, in the vacuum of photons, can emit and reabsorb photons of any frequency. Such processes give rise to well known radiative corrections (Lamb—shift, g — 2, natural width of excited states...). We review in this paper similar effects which can be induced by the interaction of an atomic electron with an incident electromagnetic wave, and we try to get some physical insight in radiative processes by comparing these two types of « spontaneous » and « induced » effects. Optical pumping methods have been very useful for studying how atoms are perturbed by optical or RF photons. The Zeeman sublevels of an atomic ground state are broadened and shifted by a resonant or quasiresonant optical irradiation. The corresponding light-shifts (or « Lamp-shifts » as A. Kastler called them) are due to virtual absorptions and reemissions of incident photons. Another example of an induced effect is the modification of the magnetic properties of an atomic level due to a high frequency non resonant RF irradiation. The Larmor precession is slowed down and becomes anisotropic. The two previous examples correspond to two situations leading to simple calculations. For a resonant or quasiresonant excitation, a single atomic transition needs to be considered. Non perturbative treatments can be given which include the effect of the atom field coupling to all orders. For example, the « dressed atom » approach allows a unified treatment of various effects such as light shifts, Autler-Townes doublets resonance fluorescence triplets... On the other hand, for a high frequency irradiation, all atomic transitions must be included. It is possible in this case to derive an effective hamiltonian describing, to lowest order in the fine structure constant α, how electronic energy levels are perturbed in the presence of N photons ω. The remaining part of the paper is devoted to the analysis of such a situation. The terms of the effective hamiltonian proportional to the number N of incident photons correspond to the induced effects. They can be fully interpreted in semiclassical terms and they describe how the slow motion of the electron in the external static fields is modified by the high frequency vibration in the incident monochromatic wave. For example, the vibrating electron averages the static potential over a finite length, the angular oscillation of the spin reduces the effective magnetic moment. The remaining terms, which are independent of N, exist even in the vacuum of photons (N = 0) and describe the contribution of the mode ω to spontaneous radiative corrections. It is possible to split them into two parts. The first one has the same structure as the N-dependent terms, with N replaced by 1/2. It describes the corrections due to the vibration of the electron in vacuum fluctuations which have a spectral power density ħω/2 per mode. The second part represents the effect of radiation reaction, i.e. the interaction of the electron with its self field. Such an interpretation is confirmed by a Heisenberg equations approach where the total force acting upon the electron is split into two physical (i.e. hermitian) parts representing respectively the effect of the vacuum « free » field and the effect of the « source » field produced by the electron itself. These considerations are finally applied to the problem of the positive sign of g - 2. The g-factor can be written as 2 ωL/ωc, where ω L is the Larmor frequency of the spin and ωc the cyclotron frequency of the charge for an electron in a weak static field B 0. In the absence of radiative corrections, g = 2, and ω L = ωc. To lowest order in 1/c (order zero), radiation reaction slows down ωc but not ωL (a charge is more coupled to its self field than a magnetic moment). The effect of vacuum fluctuations appears only at order 2 in 1/c and corresponds to relativistic and magnetic effects which slow down both ωL and ωc. Therefore, it appears that, in the non relativistic domain, the main effect is a reduction of ωc by radiation reaction and this explains why 2 ωL/ωc becomes larger than 2. A complete relativistic calculation (to all orders in 1/ c, but to lowest order in α) does not change this conclusion since the contribution of non relativistic modes (ħω < mc2) is predominant in the integral giving g — 2.
PACS : 0130R – Reviews and tutorial papers: resource letters / 3130 – Electronic structure of atoms and molecules, corrections and effects of interactions / 3280B – Atomic level crossing, optical pumping, population inversion, stimulated emission
Key words: optical pumping / radiative corrections / reviews / photon emission / photon reabsorption / spontaneous effect / incident EM wave / luminous field / photon illumination / atomic electron / radiative correction / reviews / radiative processes / induced effects
© EDP Sciences, 1985