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Light and Atoms - A Study of the

Jaynes-Cummings Model∗
Shouvik Datta†
Department of Physics, St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata-16
Visiting Student, Raman Research Institute, Bangalore-80

Quantum Optics is a subject that deals with light that can only be
treated as a stream of particles - called photons - rather than as classi-
cal electromagnetic waves. It involves the study of completely quantum
mechanical treatments of light, matter and their interactions. This is a
report on a introductory but exhaustive study of Quantum Optics and
its application to atom-field interactions. The Jaynes-Cummings Model
(1963), which gives the physics behind the interaction of the EM field with
a bistate system in a cavity, is systematically investigated with graphical
calculations and some physical reasoning. It reports on the existence of
the collapse-and-revivals through the simple yet completely quantum me-
chanical model.

1 The Quantum Mechanical Simple Harmonic

Oscillator and Photon Number States
The Hamiltonian for the SHO (in one-dimension) is given by,

p̂2 1
Ĥ = + mω 2 x2 (1)
2m 2
The Hamiltonian can be written in terms of the raising and lowering operator
Ĥ = ~ω(âaˆ+ + ) (2)
where â and aˆ+ are defined as,
â = √ (mω x̂ + ip̂)
∗ This is a report for the Summer Project done at Raman Research Institute, Bangalore-80

during June, 2008.


aˆ+ = √ (mω x̂ − ip̂)
Now, let φn = |ni.
Ĥ|ni = (n + )|ni (3)
It follows that aˆ+ â|ni = n|ni. We can thus define the number operator, n̂ to
be equal to aˆ+ â.
|ni is called the photon
√ number state or Fock state.
If x̂ = √q̂m and p̂ = mp̂ then,

â = √ (ω x̂ + ip̂)
aˆ+ = √ (ω x̂ − ip̂)

2 The Simple Harmonic Oscillator and EM Waves

Light can be considered to be an electromagnetic wave. Thus, in a way, it can
be related to the Simple Harmonic Oscillator as all oscillations can be connected
to the SHO.
Our task therefore is to find out the equivalents to the dynamical quantities
x̂ and p̂ of a SHO to that of an EM wave. From the Maxwell’s equations for an
EM wave in vaccum, we have,
~ = 0 = B
E ~ (4)
The above equation(s) has sinusoidal solutions in space and time. For example,
~ = B0 cos kzcos ωtŷ and E
B ~ = E0 sin kzsin ωtx̂. The energy density is given by,

1 B2
Uem = (0 E 2 + ) (5)
2 µ0
Confining our description of an EM wave in abox of volume V and length L, we
get the total energy to be,
V B2
Eem = (0 E02 sin2 ωt + o cos2 ωt) (6)
4 µ0
This implies that the energy oscillates back-and-forth between the electric and
magnetic fields.

Now, we know that B ~ =∇~ ×A ~ and E

~ = −∇φ ~˙ Choosing a gauge in
~ − A.
~ ~
which ∇ · A = 0 and φ = 0 we get,
0 ~˙ 2 ~ × A)
~ 2)
Uem = (A + c2 (∇

The EM field can also be described by the Lagrangian density as,
0 ~˙ 2 ~ × A)
~ 2)
L= (A − c2 (∇
This implies an oscillation between the KE and PE as well.
We define our in-phase and quadrature components as q(t) = (0 V /2)1/2 Eω0 sin ωt
and p(t) = (0 V /2)1/2 E0 cos ωt. Clearly, its evident that,

q̇ = p

ṗ = −ω 2 q

If p = √pm
and q = mx then the ordinary SHO equation of motion is repro-
duced. The energy is now therefore,
1 2
Eem = (p + ω 2 q 2 ) (7)
We can define two dimensionless quantities known as field quadratures as,
ω 1/2
X1 (t) = ( ) q(t)
1 1/2
X2 (t) = (
) p(t)
In the Quantum SHO we have 2 important features
1. The energy of the nth level is given by, En = ~ω(n + 21 ) and the zero-point
energy is given by E0 = 12 ~ω.

2. The position and momentum satisfy the uncertainty principle, ∆q∆p ≥ ~2 .

(1) can be interpreted as ”there are ’n’ photons each with energy ~ω along
with the zero point energy 12 ~ω”. And, it follows from (2) and our earlier
relations defining X1 and X2 that, ∆X1 ∆X2 ≥ ~2 . This gives the uncertainty
in quadratures.

3 Zero Point Energy and the Vacuum Field

We have, E0 = 21 ~ω. This may be thought of as arising from a randomly
fluctuating electric field called the vaccum field.
0 Evac dV = ~ω (8)
If we sum over all the modes we get a divergent answer, the zero point energy
is infinite.

Figure 1: A shows a state arising from a randomly fluctuating electric field
called the vacuum field. B depicts a coherent state with equal uncertaintaties
in amplitude and phase. C shows a phase-squeezed state, while D shows a
amplitude-squeezed state. A squeezed vacuum state is revealed in E.

Figure 2: The coherent state represented in phase space of its quadrature compo-
nents. The minimum uncertainties(= 12 ) in phase and in amplitude are evident
from the diagram.

4 Coherent States
A Coherent State is the Quantum Mechanical equivalent to the classical
monochromatic EM wave. It is a complex dimensionless number. These states
are denoted in the Dirac notation as |αi. If X1 and X2 are the field quadratures
then α is defined as,
α = X1 + iX2 (9)
Also if α = |α|eiφ , then X1 = |α| cos φ and X2 = |α| sin φ.
It can be proved that coherent states are minimum uncertainty states with
equal uncertainties in the two quadratures. Also,

|α|2 = X12 + X22

Using, our definitions for the field quadratures we get,

Eem = ~ω|α|2

Also, if n̄ be the average number of photons and each photon has √ energy ~ω
then, EQM = ~ω(n̄ + 12 ). For n̄ >> 1/2, EQM ' ~ωn̄. Thus, |α| = n̄.
The coherent state is defined to be a superposition of the stationary states
of the quantum harmonic oscillator as (definition due to Schrodinger),

−|α|2 /2
X αn
|αi = e |ni (10)

A few important results and features of coherent states are :-

1. Coherent States are eigenstates of the annihiliation operator, â|αi = α|αi.
2. The expection value of the number operator for coherent states is equal
to the average photon number, hn̂i = α∗ α = n̄.
3. The probability of the number of photons in a coherent state |αi to be n,
P (n) = |hn|αi|2 . This can be evaluated to give,
e−n̄ (n̄)n
P (n) = (11)
So, coherent states show Poissonian Photon Statistics. The variance ∆n
is therefore equal to the mean n̄.

5 Squeezed States
The vacuum and coherent states are both minimum uncertainty states with
equal uncertainties in the two quadratures, ∆X1 = ∆X2 = 21 . The mini-
mum uncertainty product allows for other quantum optical states in phase space
which have unequal quadrature uncertainties. These states are called Squeezed
As Squeezed States have unequal quadrature uncertainties, they may be
classified into two types : phase-squeezed light and amplitude-squeezed light.
They have smaller uncertainties in phase and amplitude than the coherent state
respectively. Phase-sqeezed light enables a greater precision of interferometric
measurements than the coherent state. The use of amplitude-squeezed light
gives smaller amplitude noise than that of a coherent state.

6 Classification of Light on basis of Photon Statis-

We had seen that photons in coherent states followed Poissonian Statistics. This
provides a sort of a benchmark to classify light according to photon number
dristibutions. There are in general 3 types:

1. Sub-Poissonian Light, ∆n < n̄

2. Poissonian Light, ∆n = n̄

3. Super-Poissonian Light, ∆n > n̄
Super-Poissonian Light have a classical interpretation in terms of fluctua-
tions in the light intensity. Whenever thare are in fluctuations in intensity we
expect to observe a larger photon number fluctuation. Thermal light or black-
body radiation falls in this category.
Sub-Poissonian Light has a narrower distribution and is quieter than co-
herent light. These cannot be explained classically. They correspond to the
squeezed states in phase space.

Figure 3: Comparison of the photon statistics of light with Poisson distribution
with those of sub-Poissonian and super-Poissonian light. The distribution has
been drawn with the same mean photon number, n̄ = 100.

7 Atom-field Interactions
In presence of external fields, the Hamiltonian for an electron bound to an atom
Ĥ(r, t) = [P̂ + eA(r, t)]2 − eΦ(r, t) + V (r) (12)
where A(r, t) and Φ(r, t) are the vector and scalar potentials of the external
field. These are invariant under the gauge transformations
∂χ(r, t)
Φ0 (r, t) = Φ(r, t) −
A0 (r, t) = A(r, t) + ∇χ(r, t)
The Hamilitonian in terms of A0 and Φ0 will have the form,
Ĥ0(r, t) = [P̂ + eA0 (r, t)]2 − eΦ0 (r, t) + V (r) (13)
We choose the Coulomb Gauge in which ∇ · A = 0 and Φ = 0, and then use
our gauge transformation equations along with the gauge function χ(r, t) =
A(t) · r. (If we approximate the atom by a point dipole, the spatial variation of
A becomes irrelevant.) The Hamiltonian now becomes,

Ĥ 0 (r, t) = + V (r) + er · E(t) (14)
The quantity −er is the dipole moment, d, which is actually an operator, d̂.

Ĥ 0 (r, t) = + V (r) − d̂ · E(t) (15)

8 The Jaynes-Cummings Model
We now consider the interaction of a two-level atomic system (levels : |gi and
|ei) with a single-mode cavity field of the form,

Ê = e (â + aˆ+ ) sin(kz)
0 V
where e is the polarization vector oriented arbitarily.
The interaction Hamiltonian is,
ˆ + aˆ+ )
Ĥ (I) = −d̂ · E = dg(â (16)
where dˆ = d̂ · e and g = − ~ω0V
The atomic transition operators are defined as,
σ̂+ = |eihg| , σ̂− = |gihe| (17)
and the inversion operator is defined to be,
σ̂3 = |eihe| − |gihg| (18)
Thus, the interaction Hamiltonian is,
Ĥ (I) = ~λ(σ̂+ + σ̂− )(â + aˆ+ ) (19)
where, λ = dg/~.
The zero of energy is defined to be at halfway between the excited and the
ground state of the atom. The free-atomic Hamiltonian may be written to be,
1 1
ĤA = (Ee − Eg )σ̂3 = ~ω0 σ̂3 (20)
2 2
where, Ee = −Eg = 12 ~ω0 . The free field Hamiltonian is,

ĤF = ~ω↠â (21)

where, the zero-point energy is dropped because it does not contribute to the
dynamics of the system. Thus, the total Hamiltonian for our system is,
Ĥ = ĤA + ĤF + Ĥ (I) (22)
Now, we apply the rotating wave approximation1 to drop out the terms that
do not conserve the energy. The Hamiltonian now takes the form,
Ĥ = ~ω0 σ̂3 + ~ω↠â + ~λ(σ̂+ â + σ̂− ↠) (23)
The above Hamiltonian is called the Jayes-Cummings Hamiltonian.
1 When we integrate the time-dependent Schrodinger equation for the perturbative case we

get terms having denominators like ω0 + ω as compared with ω0 − ω. We neglect the term(s)
with relatively large denominator(s).

8.1 The Resonant Case
We consider the case of resonance, for which ω = ω0 . For the atom intially in
the excited state, we have the solution,

|ψ(t)i = |ψg (t)i|gi + |ψe (t)i|ei (24)

where, |ψg (t)i and |ψe (t)i are given by

X √
|ψg (t)i = −i Cn sin(λt n + 1)|n + 1i (25)

X √
|ψe (t)i = Cn cos(λt n + 1)|ni (26)

A quantity of interest is the atomic inversion which is defined to be the

difference in probabilities of the excited and ground state.

W (t) = hψ(t)|σ̂3 |ψ(t)i

= hψe (t)|ψe (t)i − hψg (t)|ψg (t)i
∞ (27)
X √
= |Cn |2 cos(2λt n + 1)

For the coherent state, Cn = e−|α| /2
and the inversion is,

X n̄n √
W (t) = e−n̄ cos(2λt n + 1) (28)

We define the Rabi Frequency to be, Ω(n̄) = 2λ n + 1.
A plot of W (t) versus scaled time λt reveals that the oscillations initially
dampen out. The oscillations again start to revive after a period of quietness.
Actually the energy here is shared between a Fermionic oscillator - which consists
of the atom(s) - and a Bosonic oscillator - the Photons. These are coupled
oscillators like the coupled oscillations we encounter in classical mechanics. The
amplitude of oscillation for the Fermionic oscillator is large when it has more
energy than the Bosonic oscillator. Likewise, the energy and therefore, the
amplitude decreases when the Bosonic Oscillator picks up greater energy than
the Fermionic oscillator.
For a sufficiently intense field and short enough times (t << |α|/λ), W (t)
can be shown to reduce to,
1 1 2 2
W (t) = + cos(2|α|λt)e−λ t (29)
2 2
Hence, the Rabi oscillations are damped with a Gaussian envelope independent
of the photon number n̄ = |α|2 , a result sometimes called the ”Cummings



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Figure 4: Plot of W (t) versus time for the resonant case with n̄ = 5.

collapse”. This collapse is due to the interference of Rabi floppings at different

frequencies. For still longer times, the system exhibits a series of revivals and
collapses. The mathematical reason behind revivals being the discreteness of
n in the sum of W (t) which cause oscillations to rephase. Any spread in field
strengths - here, due the uncertainty of the amplitude of coherent states - will
dephase Rabi oscillations, but the revivals are entirely due to the quantum
nature of the field (such collapse and revivals do not occur when the field is
treated classically), so that the atomic evolution is determined by the individual
field quanta.

8.2 The Non-resonant Case

Consider the Jaynes-Cummings Hamiltonian,
Ĥ = ~ω0 σ̂3 + ~ω↠â + ~λ(σ̂+ â + σ̂− ↠) (30)
we won’t assume the resonance condition now.
The interaction potential causes transitions as those below,

|ei|ni ↔ |gi|n + 1i

|ei|n − 1i ↔ |gi|ni
The product states, as above, are states of unperturbed atom and field. These
are referred to as ”bare” states of the Jaynes-Cummings model. We define them
as, |ψ1n i = |ei|ni and |ψ2n i = |gi|n + 1i.

Now, for a given n, the energy eigenvalues (of the Hamiltonian) are :
1 1
E± = (n + )~ω ± ~Ωn (∆) (31)
2 2
where for ∆ = ω0 − ω,

Ωn (∆) = [∆2 + 4λ2 (n + 1)]1/2 (32)

The eigenstates |n, ±i associated with the energy eigenvalues are :

|n, +i = cos(Φn /2)|ψ1n i + sin(Φn /2)|ψ2n i

|n, −i = − sin(Φn /2)|ψ1n i + cos(Φn /2)|ψ2n i

where,  √   
−1 2λt n + 1 −1 Ωn (0)
Φn = tan = tan (33)
∆ ∆
The states |n, ±i are called the ”dressed” states of the Jaynes-Cummings
Hamiltonian. The bare states of energies E1n = ~(ω0 /2 + nω) and E2n =
~[−ω0 /2 + (n + 1)ω] are split further owing to interaction. This is a kind of
Stark shift.
The state of the system is obtained in terms of the dressed states is,
|ψ(t)i = Cn [cos(Φn /2)|n, +ie−iE+ (n)t − sin(Φn /2)|n, −ie−iE−(n)t ] (34)

The Atomic Inversion in this case is of considerable importance. Its value is

evaluated to be,
2 2 2 2 Ωn (∆)t
W (t) == |Cn | [1 − 8c s sin ] (35)

c = cos(Φn /2)
s = sin(Φn /2)
2 n
For the coherent state, Cn = e−|α| /2 (n!) 1/2 . The value of W (t) therefore may be

computed for various values of the strength of coupling λ and different resonant
modes of the cavity ω, and the consequences may be viewed.
The above can be done using a computer program. The parameters like the
strength of coupling λ, the resonant frequency of the cavity ω are varied and
the following plots are obtained.
The Jaynes-Cummings model thus explains interesting quantum features
of the problem of atom-field interaction. The remarkable fact is that these
have recently started to be observed experimentally in cavity QED experiments.
These features also lead to a number of applications. The common ones being,
the production of low-threshold lasers and the development of single-photon
phase gates for quantum computation.



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Figure 5: Plot of W (t) versus T (scaled time) for the off-resonant case compared
with the resonant case with n̄ = 5. Note that when we stay away from resonance
there is a tendency of the atom(s) to remain in the excited state, as it was there



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Figure 6: Plot of W (t) versus T (scaled time) for the case in which coupling is
half compared with the case in which the coupling strength is unity (in appro-
priate units) with n̄ = 5. Note that when the coupling is less the entire process
of oscillations slow down as anticipated. Thus, λ serves as a scaling factor here.



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Figure 7: Plot of W (t) versus T (scaled time) for the case in which coupling
is zero compared with the case in which the coupling strength is unity (in
appropriate units) with n̄ = 5. The states |gi and |ei are orthogonal states of
the two-level atomic system. As the system was initially in the excited state, it
will remain in that state until the system is disturbed. Here, λ = 0 and therefore
the Fermionic Oscillator exists independent of the Bosonic Photon Field.



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Figure 8: Plot of W (t) versus T (scaled time) for the case in which coupling is
unity but n̄ = 0. Physically, this is case of spontaneous emission. Even in the
absence of an electric field but in presence of coupling, Rabi Oscillations occur.
Usually we have a continuous spectrum of vacuum fluctuations that attempt to
make an excited atom Rabi flop. In this case there are no collapse and revivals.
The energy (in form of EM waves) that comes out of the two-level atom is put
back by virtue of the coupling. This increases the population of the excited
state once again. This process continues over and over again giving rise to the
oscillations. However, the well-known exponential decay is absent here because
we only considered a single mode of the electromagnetic field.

9 Acknowledgements
I express my heartfelt gratitude to Prof. Joseph Samuel, who has helped me
throughout the course of this project. I also acknowledge the guidance given
by Prof. Supurna Sinha. I thank Raman Research Institute, Bangalore for
providing me the opportunity to do this work. Finally, I am grateful to Wolfram
Research for their software, Mathematica v6, without which I wouldn’t have
been able to produce the graphs for this report.

10 References
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4. Klauder, J.R. and E.C.G. Sudarshan (1968), Fundamentals of Quantum
5. Lee and Knight. Introductory Quantum Optics
6. Li and Peng. Modern Quantum Optics
7. Loudon, R. (2000) The Quantum Theory Of Light
8. Meystre, P. and Sargent, M. (2007), Elements of Quantum Optics
9. Schiff, L. (1949), Quantum Mechanics