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  • Cited by 2
  • Print publication year: 1997
  • Online publication date: June 2012

2 - Coherent and squeezed states of the radiation field


Following the development of the quantum theory of radiation and with the advent of the laser, the states of the field that most nearly describe a classical electromagnetic field were widely studied. In order to realize such ‘classical’ states, we will consider the field generated by a classical monochromatic current, and find that the quantum state thus generated has many interesting properties and deserves to be called a coherent state. An important consequence of the quantization of the radiation field is the associated uncertainty relation for the conjugate field variables. It therefore appears reasonable to propose that the wave function which corresponds most closely to the classical field must have minimum uncertainty for all times subject to the appropriate simple harmonic potential.

In this chapter we show that a displaced simple harmonic oscillator ground state wave function satisfies this property and the wave packet oscillates sinusoidally in the oscillator potential without changing shape as shown in Fig. 2.1. This coherent wave packet always has minimum uncertainty, and resembles the classical field as nearly as quantum mechanics permits. The corresponding state vector is the coherent state |α〉, which is the eigenstate of the positive frequency part of the electric field operator, or, equivalently, the eigenstate of the destruction operator of the field.

Classically an electromagnetic field consists of waves with welldefined amplitude and phase. Such is not the case when we treat the field quantum mechanically.