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A terahertz-driven non-equilibrium phase transition in a room temperature atomic vapour

Wade, Christopher G.; Levi, Emanuele; Marcuzzi, Matteo; Kondo, Jorge M.; Lesanovsky, Igor; Adams, Charles S.; Weatherill, Kevin J.

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Christopher G. Wade

Emanuele Levi

Matteo Marcuzzi

Jorge M. Kondo

Igor Lesanovsky

Charles S. Adams


There are few demonstrated examples of phase transitions that may be driven directly by terahertz frequency electric fields, and those that are known require field strengths exceeding 1MV cm−1. Here we report a non-equilibrium phase transition driven by a weak (≪1 V cm−1), continuous-wave terahertz electric field. The system consists of room temperature caesium vapour under continuous optical excitation to a high-lying Rydberg state, which is resonantly coupled to a nearby level by the terahertz electric field. We use a simple model to understand the underlying physical behaviour, and we demonstrate two protocols to exploit the phase transition as a narrowband terahertz detector: the first with a fast (20 μs) non-linear response to nano-Watts of incident radiation, and the second with a linearised response and effective noise equivalent power ≤1 pWHz−1/2. The work opens the door to a class of terahertz devices controlled with low-field intensities and operating in a room temperature environment.


Wade, C. G., Levi, E., Marcuzzi, M., Kondo, J. M., Lesanovsky, I., Adams, C. S., & Weatherill, K. J. (2018). A terahertz-driven non-equilibrium phase transition in a room temperature atomic vapour. Nature Communications, 9, Article 3567.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 28, 2018
Online Publication Date Sep 3, 2018
Publication Date 2018
Deposit Date Sep 1, 2017
Publicly Available Date Sep 4, 2018
Journal Nature Communications
Publisher Nature Research
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 9
Article Number 3567


Published Journal Article (1.3 Mb)

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Copyright Statement
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons<br /> Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing,<br /> adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give<br /> appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative<br /> Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party<br /> material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless<br /> indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the<br /> article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory<br /> regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from<br /> the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit<br /> licenses/by/4.0/.<br /> © The Author(s) 2018

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