We review here the studies performed about interactions in an assembly of cold Rydberg atoms. We focus especially on the review of the dipole–dipole interactions and on the effect of the dipole blockade in the laser Rydberg excitation, which offers attractive possibilities for quantum engineering. We present first the various interactions between Rydberg atoms. The laser Rydberg excitation of such an assembly is then described with the introduction of the dipole blockade phenomenon. We report recent experiments performed in this subject by starting with the case of a pair of atoms allowing the entanglement of the wave-functions of the atoms and opening a fascinating way for the realization of quantum bits and quantum gates. We consider then several works on the blockade effect in a large assembly of atoms for three different configurations: blockade through electric-field induced dipole, through Förster resonance, and in van der Waals interaction. The properties of coherence and cooperativity are analyzed. Finally, we treat the role of dipole–dipole interactions between Rydberg atoms responsible for Penning ionization. The perturbation of the dipole blockade by ions and the evolution of the Rydberg towards an ultracold plasma are discussed.
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