Abstract

A theoretical construct is presented for fourth-order interference between the signal and the idler beams of a parametric downconverter. Previous quantum treatments of fourth-order interference have employed correlated single-photon wave packets. The introduced approach, however, relies on Gaussian-state field correlations, which were previously used to characterize quadrature-noise squeezing produced by an optical parametric amplifier and nonclassical twin-beam generation in an optical parametric oscillator. Three principal benefits accrue from the correlation-function formalism. First, the quantum theory of fourth-order interference is unified with that for the other nonclassical effects of χ(2) interactions, i.e., squeezing and twin-beam production. Second, the semiclassical photodetection limit on Gaussian-state fourth-order interference is established; a purely quantum effect can be claimed at fringe visibilities substantially below the 50% level. Finally, both photon-coincidence counting (within the low-photon-flux regime) and intensity interferometry (in the high-photon-flux limit) are easily analyzed within a common framework.

© 1994 Optical Society of America

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