Probing the quantum vacuum with an artificial atom in front of a mirror

I. C. Hoi, A. F. Kockum, L. Tornberg, A. Pourkabirian, G. Johansson, P. Delsing*, C. M. Wilson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Quantum fluctuations of the vacuum are both a surprising and fundamental phenomenon of nature. Understood as virtual photons, they still have a very real impact, for instance, in the Casimir effects and the lifetimes of atoms. Engineering vacuum fluctuations is therefore becoming increasingly important to emerging technologies. Here, we shape vacuum fluctuations using a superconducting circuit analogue of a mirror, creating regions in space where they are suppressed. Moving an artificial atom through these regions and measuring the spontaneous emission lifetime of the atom provides us with the spectral density of the vacuum fluctuations. Using the paradigm of waveguide quantum electrodynamics, we significantly improve over previous studies of the interaction of an atom with its mirror image, observing a spectral density as low as 0.02 quanta, a factor of 50 below the mirrorless result. This demonstrates that we can hide the atom from the vacuum, even though it is exposed in free space.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1045-1049
Number of pages5
JournalNature Physics
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


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