We present an open quantum system theory of atom interferometers evolving in the quantized electromagnetic field bounded by an ideal conductor. Our treatment reveals an unprecedented feature of matter-wave propagation, namely the appearance of a non-local double-path phase coherence. In the standard interpretation of interferometers, one associates well-defined separate phases to individual paths. Our non-local phase coherence is instead associated to pairs of paths. It arises from the coarse-graining over the quantized electromagnetic field and internal atomic degrees of freedom, which play the role of a common reservoir for the pair of paths and lead to a non-Hamiltonian evolution of the atomic waves. We develop a diagrammatic interpretation and estimate the non-local phase for realistic experimental parameters.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)