Introduction to quantum optics
Currently offered as PH260 at Zhiyuan College
in Shanghai Jiao Tong University,
Spring semester (Feb-Jun, 2020)
Course summary. Quantum optics is the fundamental theory for light-matter interactions, or with more generality, for quantum electrodynamics at low energies. This course thoroughly introduces the basics of this vast field, which is intimately connected to other fields such as quantum information and condensed matter physics.
Starting from basic quantum mechanics and optics, key concepts in quantum optics are introduced in a consistent, self-contained fashion. Although the course focuses on the theoretical concepts, these will be connected to relevant experimental observations.
The course covers a variety of basic topics in the field. In particular, it introduces the quantum theory of the electromagnetic field, including its most important types of states, how to generate them, and how to detect them. Students also learn about the quantum theory of matter (including atoms, dielectric materials, and other modern solid-state systems such as superconducting circuits) and its interactions with the electromagnetic field. One of the distinguishing features of quantum optics is that it deals with systems out of equilibrium (e.g., driven by lasers) that exchange energy and information with their environment (e.g., an optical cavities loosing light through imperfect mirrors). Hence, the course also covers the theory of open quantum systems, which is of fundamental relevance to essentially all branches of (quantum) physics.
Overall, this is a course that no one with interest in modern quantum mechanics should miss, since it dives directly into the core of the theory, but builds towards the description of modern quantum technologies linked to computing, communication, and sensing.
Course materials. The course is fully based on the self-contained notes that I developed on purpose for it (last taught in Germany), that soon will appear as a book. The current version can be found below, but I will be reshaping, updating, and adapting them to the level and interests of the present students as the course progresses:
In addition, the blackboards will also be available after each lecture, in order for students to know exactly what was introduced in class (material not mentioned in class or exercises will not count for the exam).
Evaluation method. The final grade will be based on homework (30%), an in-depth project (30%), and a final exam (40%) during the last lecture, that will contain a multiple-choice test for basic concepts and essay-type questions or exercises.
In all cases I will take into account that English is not the first language of the students and value their effort accordingly.
Final remarks. The course content and evaluation methods may be adjusted according to the students preferences and interests. I am a dedicated, flexible teacher, and I will try to make a course where students feel comfortable, motivated, and able to pass with just a reasonable amount of work.