Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Murray Holland

Second Advisor

John Bohn

Third Advisor

Jose D'Incao

Fourth Advisor

Andrew Hamilton

Fifth Advisor

Senarath De Alwis


A spectrally pure coherent light source is an important component in precision measurement applications, such as an atomic clock. The more spectrally pure the coherent light source, or the narrower the linewidth of its power spectrum, the better for atomic clock experiments. A coherent light light source, such as a laser, is intrinsically an open quantum system, meaning that it gains and loses energy from an external environment.

The aim of this thesis is to study various open quantum systems in an attempt to discover a scheme in which an extremely spectrally pure coherent light source might be realized. Therefore, this thesis begins by introducing the two main approaches to treating open quantum systems, the quantum master equation approach, and the quantum Langevin equation approach. In addition to deriving these from first principles, many of the solution methods to these approaches are given and then demonstrated using computer simulations. These include the quantum jump algorithm, the quantum state diffusion algorithm, the cumulant expansion method, and the method of c-number Langevin equations.

Using these methods, the theory of the crossover between lasing and steady state superradiance is presented. It is shown that lasing and steady state superradiance might be demonstrated in the same physical system, but in different parameter regimes. The parameter space between these two extreme limits is explored, and the benefits and drawbacks of operating a system at a given set of parameters, i.e. to achieve the most spectrally pure light source, are discussed.

We also consider the phase stability of a laser that is locked to a cavity QED system comprised of atoms with an ultra-narrow optical transition. Although the atomic motion introduces Doppler broadening, the standing wave nature of the cavity causes saturated absorption, which can be used to achieve an extremely high degree of phase stabilization. The inhomogeneity introduced by finite atomic velocities can also cause optical bistability to disappear, resulting in no regions of dynamic instability that would otherwise restrict operational parameters in the experiment to be tuned outside of the optimum region where the minimum linewidth occurs.