Optical angular momentum: Multipole transitions and photonics

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The premise that multipolar decay should produce photons uniquely imprinted with a measurably corresponding angular momentum is shown in general to be untrue. To assume a one-to-one correlation between the transition multipoles involved in source decay and detector excitation is to impose a generally unsupportable one-to-one correlation between the multipolar form of emission transition and a multipolar character for the detected field. It is specifically proven impossible to determine without ambiguity, by use of any conventional detector, and for any photon emitted through the nondipolar decay of an atomic excited state, a unique multipolar character for the transition associated with its generation. Consistent with the angular quantum uncertainty principle, removal of a detector from the immediate vicinity of the source produces a decreasing angular uncertainty in photon propagation direction, reflected in an increasing range of integer values for the measured angular momentum. In such a context it follows that when the decay of an electronic excited state occurs by an electric quadrupolar transition, for example, any assumption that the radiation so produced is conveyed in the form of “quadrupole photons” is experimentally unverifiable. The results of the general proof based on irreducible tensor analysis invite experimental verification, and they signify certain limitations on quantum optical data transmission.
Original languageEnglish
Article number033825
JournalPhysical Review A
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2010

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