Coherent control and decoherence of single semiconductor quantum dots in a microcavity
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Semiconductor quantum dots tightly confine excited electron-hole pairs, called excitons, resulting in discrete energy levels similar to those of single atoms. Transition energies in the visible or near-infrared make quantum dots suitable for many applications in quantum optics and quantum information science, but to take advantage of all the properties of quantum dot emission, it is necessary to excite them coherently which has been a great challenge due to background scattering of the excitation laser. This dissertation presents the first coherent control of a single quantum dot with observation of its resonance fluorescence and decoherence phenomena. Strong continuous-wave excitation causes the dot to undergo several Rabi oscillations before emitting. These are visible as oscillations in the first- and second-order correlation functions of the emission, and the quantum dot states are "dressed", resulting in a Mollow triplet in the emission spectrum. Some resonantly excited dots, in addition to resonance fluorescence, also emit light from excited states several meV higher in energy. Such up-conversion fits existing theories of decoherence but has never been directly observed before. The up-conversion intensity is shown to be described well by a fairly simple three-level model with single-phonon absorption. The coherent phenomena of resonance fluorescence and the decoherence due to up-conversion paint a dual picture of single quantum dots wherein they can sometimes be treated as an ideal two-level system, but their interactions with the host crystal can lead to many complex behaviors.