Polaritons are promising constituents of both synthetic quantum matter1 and quantum information processors2, whose properties emerge from their components: from light, polaritons draw fast dynamics and ease of transport; from matter, they inherit the ability to collide with one another. Cavity polaritons are particularly promising as they may be confined and subjected to synthetic magnetic fields controlled by cavity geometry3, and furthermore they benefit from increased robustness due to the cavity enhancement in light–matter coupling. Nonetheless, until now, cavity polaritons have operated only in a weakly interacting mean-field regime4,5. Here we demonstrate strong interactions between individual cavity polaritons enabled by employing highly excited Rydberg atoms as the matter component of the polaritons. We assemble a quantum dot composed of approximately 150 strongly interacting Rydberg-dressed 87Rb atoms in a cavity, and observe blockaded transport of photons through it. We further observe coherent photon tunnelling oscillations, demonstrating that the dot is zero-dimensional. This work establishes the cavity Rydberg polariton as a candidate qubit in a photonic information processor and, by employing multiple resonator modes as the spatial degrees of freedom of a photonic particle, the primary ingredient to form photonic quantum matter6.

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We would like to thank M. Fleischhauer and H. P. Buechler for fruitful conversations. This work was supported by DOE grant DE-SC0010267 for apparatus construction, DARPA grant W911NF-15-1-0620 for modelling, and MURI grant FA9550-16-1-0323 for data collection and analysis. A.G. acknowledges support from the UChicago MRSEC grant NSF-DMR-MRSEC 1420709. A.R. acknowledges support from the NDSEG Fellowship.

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Author notes

    • Albert Ryou

    Present address: Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

    • Ariel Sommer

    Present address: Department of Physics, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA, USA


  1. Department of Physics and James Franck Institute, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA

    • Ningyuan Jia
    • , Nathan Schine
    • , Alexandros Georgakopoulos
    • , Albert Ryou
    • , Logan W. Clark
    • , Ariel Sommer
    •  & Jonathan Simon


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The experiment was designed and built by all authors. J.N., N.S., L.W.C. and J.S. collected and analysed the data. All authors contributed to the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jonathan Simon.

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    Supplementary notes, supplementary figures 1–9, supplementary references

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