Homogenization of an ensemble of interacting resonant scatterers
AbstractWe study theoretically the concept of homogenization in optics using an ensemble of randomly distributed resonant stationary atoms with density ρ. The ensemble is dense enough for the usual condition for homogenization, viz. ρλ3≫1, to be reached. Introducing the coherent and incoherent scattered powers, we define two criteria to define the homogenization regime. We find that when the excitation field is tuned in a broad frequency range around the resonance, neither of the criteria for homogenization is fulfilled, meaning that the condition ρλ3≫1 is not sufficient to characterize the homogenized regime around the atomic resonance. We interpret these results as a consequence of the light-induced dipole-dipole interactions between the atoms, which implies a description of scattering in terms of collective modes rather than as a sequence of individual scattering events. Finally, we show that, although homogenization can never be reached for a dense ensemble of randomly positioned laser-cooled atoms around resonance, it becomes possible if one introduces spatial correlations in the positions of the atoms or nonradiative losses, such as would be the case for organic molecules or quantum dots coupled to a phonon bath.