Role of quantum interference in thermodynamic equilibrium

V. I. Savchenko, N. J. Fisch, A. A. Panteleev, A. N. Starostin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The influence of quantum interference between different decay channels of three-level atoms on various characteristics of matter and radiation is considered for the case of thermodynamic equilibrium of atoms in a photon gas. It is shown that for rare gases when collisions between atoms are not important, the direct consequence of such an interference is a spontaneously induced atomic coherence between two upper levels. Therefore, for an accurate description of such atoms and radiation in thermodynamic equilibrium with each other it is not sufficient to specify only Boltzmann exponents, which correspond to the diagonal elements of the density matrix. The reason for this is that the conventional Boltzmann description is applied to infinitely sharp eigenstates of the unperturbed Hamiltonian. As we show, it becomes essential to take into account nonzero width of the levels if the levels are relatively close to each other. This produces nonzero nondiagonal elements of the density matrix that modify the emissivity of the equilibrium medium and lead to a zero point at a certain frequency as well as to an enhanced intensity in the red wing at the corresponding temperature. It is shown that the occupation number of the photons is not changed and obeys the equilibrium Planck distribution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)708-713
Number of pages6
JournalPhysical Review A - Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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