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Weber, Markus (2005): Quantum optical experiments towards atom-photon entanglement. Dissertation, LMU München: Faculty of Physics
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Abstract

In 1935 Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen used the assumption of local realism to conclude in a Gedankenexperiment with two entangled particles that quantum mechanics is not complete. For this reason EPR motivated an extension of quantum mechanics by so-called local hidden variables. Based on this idea in 1964 Bell constructed a mathematical inequality whereby experimental tests could distinguish between quantum mechanics and local-realistic theories. Many experiments have since been done that are consistent with quantum mechanics, disproving the concept of local realism. But all these tests suffered from loopholes allowing a local-realistic explanation of the experimental observations by exploiting either the low detector efficiency or the fact that the detected particles were not observed space-like separated. In this context, of special interest is entanglement between different quantum objects like atoms and photons, because it allows one to entangle distant atoms by the interference of photons. The resulting space-like separation together with the almost perfect detection efficiency of the atoms allows a first loophole-free test of Bell's inequality. The primary goal of the present thesis is the experimental realization of entanglement between a single localized atom and a single spontaneously emitted photon at a wavelength suitable for the transport over long distances. In the experiment a single optically trapped Rb87 atom is excited to a state which has two selected decay channels. In the following spontaneous decay a photon is emitted coherently with equal probability into both decay channels. This accounts for perfect correlations between the polarization state of the emitted photon and the Zeeman state of the atom after spontaneous decay. Because these decay channels are spectrally and in all other degrees of freedom indistinguishable, the spin state of the atom is entangled with the polarization state of the photon. To verify entanglement, appropriate correlation measurements in complementary bases of the photon polarization and the internal quantum state of the atom are performed. It is shown, that the generated atom-photon state yields an entanglement fidelity of 0.82. The experimental results of this work mark an important step towards the generation of entanglement between space-like separated atoms for a first loophole-free test of Bell's inequality. Furthermore entanglement between a single atom and a single photon is an important tool for new quantum communication and information applications, e.g. the remote state preparation of a single atom over large distances.