Publications by Martin Kiffner

Single spontaneous photon as a coherent beamsplitter for an atomic matter-wave

Nature Physics 7 (2011) 379-382

J Tomkovič, M Schreiber, J Welte, M Kiffner, J Schmiedmayer, MK Oberthaler

In spontaneous emission an atom in an excited state undergoes a transition to the ground state and emits a single photon. Associated with the emission is a change of the atomic momentum due to photon recoil. Photon emission can be modified close to surfaces and in cavities. For an ion, localized in front of a mirror, coherence of the emitted resonance fluorescence has been reported. Previous experiments demonstrated that spontaneous emission destroys motional coherence. Here we report on motional coherence created by a single spontaneous emission event close to a mirror surface. The coherence in the free atomic motion is verified by atom interferometry. The photon can be regarded as a beamsplitter for an atomic matter-wave and consequently our experiment extends the original recoiling slit Gedanken experiment by Einstein to the case where the slit is in a robust coherent superposition of the two recoils associated with the two paths of the quanta.

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