Realizing a rapidly switched Unruh-DeWitt detector through electro-optic sampling of the electromagnetic vacuum

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A new theoretical framework to describe the experimental advances in electro-optic detection of broadband quantum states, specifically the quantum vacuum, is devised. Electro-optic sampling is a technique in ultrafast photonics which, when transferred into the quantum domain, can be utilized to resolve properties of a sampled quantum state via its interaction with a strong coherent probe pulse at ultrafast timescales. By making use of fundamental concepts from quantum field theory on spacetime metrics, the nonlinear interaction behind the electro-optic effect is shown to be equivalent to a stationary Unruh-DeWitt detector coupled to a conjugate field during a very short time interval. When the coupling lasts for a time interval comparable to the oscillation periods of the detected field mode (i.e., the subcycle regime), virtual particles inhabiting the field vacuum are transferred to the detector in the form of real excitation. We demonstrate that this behavior can be rigorously translated to the scenario of electro-optic sampling of the quantum vacuum, in which the (spectrally filtered) probe works as an Unruh-DeWitt detector, with its interaction-generated photons arising from virtual particles inhabiting the electromagnetic vacuum. Our analysis accurately encapsulates the quantum nature of the vacuum, and we propose the specific working regime in which we can experimentally verify the existence of virtual photons with quantum correlations in the electromagnetic ground state.

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ISO 690ONOE, Sho, Thiago L.M. GUEDES, Andrey S. MOSKALENKO, Alfred LEITENSTORFER, Guido BURKARD, Timothy C. RALPH, 2022. Realizing a rapidly switched Unruh-DeWitt detector through electro-optic sampling of the electromagnetic vacuum. In: Physical Review D. American Physical Society (APS). 2022, 105(5), 056023. ISSN 1550-7998. eISSN 2470-0029. Available under: doi: 10.1103/PhysRevD.105.056023
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@article{Onoe2022Reali-57145,
  year={2022},
  doi={10.1103/PhysRevD.105.056023},
  title={Realizing a rapidly switched Unruh-DeWitt detector through electro-optic sampling of the electromagnetic vacuum},
  number={5},
  volume={105},
  issn={1550-7998},
  journal={Physical Review D},
  author={Onoe, Sho and Guedes, Thiago L.M. and Moskalenko, Andrey S. and Leitenstorfer, Alfred and Burkard, Guido and Ralph, Timothy C.},
  note={Article Number: 056023}
}
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