Letter | Published:

Observation of strong coupling between one atom and a monolithic microresonator

Nature volume 443, pages 671674 (12 October 2006) | Download Citation



Over the past decade, strong interactions of light and matter at the single-photon level have enabled a wide set of scientific advances in quantum optics and quantum information science. This work has been performed principally within the setting of cavity quantum electrodynamics1,2,3,4 with diverse physical systems5, including single atoms in Fabry–Perot resonators1,6, quantum dots coupled to micropillars and photonic bandgap cavities7,8 and Cooper pairs interacting with superconducting resonators9,10. Experiments with single, localized atoms have been at the forefront of these advances11,12,13,14,15 with the use of optical resonators in high-finesse Fabry–Perot configurations16. As a result of the extreme technical challenges involved in further improving the multilayer dielectric mirror coatings17 of these resonators and in scaling to large numbers of devices, there has been increased interest in the development of alternative microcavity systems5. Here we show strong coupling between individual caesium atoms and the fields of a high-quality toroidal microresonator. From observations of transit events for single atoms falling through the resonator's evanescent field, we determine the coherent coupling rate for interactions near the surface of the resonator. We develop a theoretical model to quantify our observations, demonstrating that strong coupling is achieved, with the rate of coherent coupling exceeding the dissipative rates of the atom and the cavity. Our work opens the way for investigations of optical processes with single atoms and photons in lithographically fabricated microresonators. Applications include the implementation of quantum networks18,19, scalable quantum logic with photons20, and quantum information processing on atom chips21.

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We thank M. Eichenfield, K. W. Goh and S. M. Spillane for their contributions to the early stages of this experiment, and T. Carmon, A. Gross and S. Walavalkar for their contributions to the current realization. The work of H.J.K. is supported by the National Science Foundation, the Disruptive Technology Office of the Department of National Intelligence, and Caltech. The work of K.J.V. is supported by DARPA, the Caltech Lee Center and the National Science Foundation. B.D., W.P.B. and T.J.K. acknowledge support as Fellows of the Center for the Physics of Information at Caltech. A.S.P. acknowledges support from the Marsden Fund of the Royal Society of New Zealand. E.W. acknowledges support as a Ford Predoctoral Fellow from the US National Academies.

Author information

Author notes

    • Takao Aoki
    • , W. P. Bowen
    • , A. S. Parkins
    •  & T. J. Kippenberg

    †Present addresses: Department of Applied Physics, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo 113-8656, Japan (T.A.); Physics Department, University of Otago, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand (W.P.B.); Department of Physics, University of Auckland, Auckland 1142, New Zealand (A.S.P.); Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, Garching 85748, Germany (T.J.K.)


  1. Norman Bridge Laboratory of Physics 12-33, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91125, USA

    • Takao Aoki
    • , Barak Dayan
    • , E. Wilcut
    • , W. P. Bowen
    • , A. S. Parkins
    •  & H. J. Kimble
  2. T. J. Watson Laboratory of Applied Physics, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91125, USA

    • T. J. Kippenberg
    •  & K. J. Vahala


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Reprints and permissions information is available at www.nature.com/reprints. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to H. J. Kimble.

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  1. 1.

    Supplementary Notes

    This file contains Supplementary Figures 1–3, Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Equations and Supplementary Discussions. This file describes our theoretical model for cavity QED with two-level atoms and a toroidal microresonator.

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